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Paul Hindemith - "Konzertmusik," Op. 41

Paul Hindemith's Konzertmusik, Op. 41, composed in 1926, was, in some ways, written to promote the importance and relevance of wind music in classical performance. Although designed as a piece for amateurs, the piece is certainly challenging enough for professional players - a comparison may be drawn to the Schoenberg Theme and Variations, Op. 43a in this way. The piece is written for a variation on the German military band instrumentation, and has since become a standard of the wind repertoire.

Below are program notes from UMWO's performance of the Hindemith from the 2008-2009 season.

Paul Hindemith

Konzertmusik, Op. 41

The changes in German and Austrian culture in the decade after World War I produced architecture, painting, music and theater that was, in the words of William Bolcom, “dedicated to the total overthrow of the decaying Romanticism that, some held, had fostered that war.” As Arnold Schoenberg , and his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern first expanded then abandoned post-Wagnerian harmony, their music was regarded as irrelevant by the vast majority of concert-goers — most Germans went to hear music in the cabarets, not the concert halls. As in America, jazz was all the rage in Berlin in the 1920s.

The foremost German composer of his generation, Paul Hindemith established his reputation as a first-rate contemporary composer at the second Donaueschingen Festival in 1921, after which he was asked to serve on the organizing committee. Hindemith was convinced that the ever-widening gap between composers and general public could be bridged if composers wrote with a particular purpose and according to prescribed premises, and at Donaueschingen he now had a platform on which to display his anti-Expressionist concept of Gebrauchsmusik (functional music for amateurs). During Hindemith’s tenure as artistic director, the festival highlighted particular genres and media; specifically those that he felt were under-represented in the world of serious art music.

Hindemith felt that wind music had been unfairly regarded as a musical step-child and, thus, was determined to promote it by featuring wind music, along with mechanical music, at the 1926 festival. Hindemith specifically directed promising composers to the job of writing contemporary music for military band. As part of this festival, Hindemith composed his first work for wind band, the Kozertmusik, op. 41. On July 24, 1926, a complete concert was devoted to four new works for wind band: Hindemith’s Konzertmusik, Krenek’s Three Merry Marches, op. 44, Pepping’s Serenade and Toch’s Spiel, op. 39.

The Konzertmusik, though composed “for amateurs” is of sufficient complexity and difficulty to challenge professional players. The Konzertante-Overture begins with a satirical fanfare, then unfolds a sonata-form-cum-concerto-grosso allegro. The second movement offers six variations of the popular German folk song, Prince, Eugene, the Noble Knight, while exploring the various facets of the ensemble. This work concludes with a parody of a German march, a rather tongue-in-cheek presentation of typical band fare of the early twentieth century. Yet, in the opening measures, it becomes very clear that there isn’t anything ordinary about Hindemith’s presentation. In fact, he musically “thumbs his nose” at band traditionalists who would have criticized him for a contemporary treatment of such a revered musical form. The Konzertmusik, op. 41 makes use of an instrumental ensemble that includes tenorhorns and flugelhorns. It is, in fact, a German military band that has been dressed up in Hindemith’s creative melodies, rhythmic energy and brilliant counterpoint.

Paul Hindemith, Konzertmusik, Op. 41, I. Konzertante Ouverture

University of North Texas Wind Symphony, Eugene Corporon, conductor

Paul Hindemith, Konzertmusik, Op. 41, II. Sechs Variationen

University of North Texas Wind Symphony, Eugene Corporon, conductor

Paul Hindemith, Konzertmusik, Op. 41, III. Marsch

University of North Texas Wind Symphony, Eugene Corporon, conductor

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