Paul Hindemith

Hindemith, Paul (hĭnˈdəmĭth) [key], 1895–1963, German-American composer and violist, b. Hanau, Germany. Hindemith combined experimental and traditional techniques into a distinctively modern style. After studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory, he began his career as a viola player. He taught (1927–37) composition at the Berlin Hochschule, but during the Nazi regime his compositions were banned because of their dissonance and modernity. In 1935 he was commissioned by the Turkish government to reorganize that country's musical education. Later he taught at Yale Univ. (1940–53), becoming a U.S. citizen in 1946; but in 1951 he returned to Europe to teach at the Univ. of Zürich. Hindemith's early compositions are highly contrapuntal and often atonal. Later works display a return to tonality that has often been termed neoclassical. His best-known work is the symphony (1934) drawn from his opera Mathis der Maler [Mathis the painter] (1938), which is based on the life of the painter Mathias Grünewald. Other operas include Cardillac (1926) and Neues vom Tage [news of the day] (1929). Many of Hindemith's works might be classed as Gebrauchsmusik [utility music], written for specific performance by amateur school groups or chamber music organizations. His aim was to establish closer contact between composer and public. Included in this group are the children's opera Wir bauen eine Stadt [we are building a city] (1931) and numerous sonatas and chamber works. Other important works are the Ludus Tonalis (1943) for piano; the song cycle Das Marienleben (1923, 1948) set to poems by Rilke; the viola concerto Der Schwanendreher (1935), based on medieval German folk songs; the ballet Nobilissima Visione (1938); and the setting for chorus and orchestra of Walt Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (1946). His writings include Traditional Harmony (2 vol., 1943, 1948), The Craft of Musical Composition (1937, tr. 1942) and A Composer's World (1952).

See studies by I. Kemp (1970) and G. Skelton (1975).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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