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Paul Hindemith: "Symphony in B-flat"

June 18, 2010

In 1952, when Frederick Fennell founded the Eastman Wind Ensemble, part of the stated mission of the ensemble was the perform pieces like Paul Hindemith's newly composed Symphony in B-flat that were not part of the traditional band repertoire. Since that time, this piece has become a cornerstone of the wind repertoire.

 

Paul Hindemith, Symphony in B-flat

Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell, conductor

 

Below are liner notes from the Peabody Conservatory's recording "Trendsetters."

 

Paul Hindemith (1895–1963): Symphony in B flat

 

The Symphony in B-flat for Concert Band by Paul Hindemith was composed at the request of Lt Col Hugh Curry, leader of the United States Army Band, and had its première in Washington, D.C. on 5th April, 1951, with the composer conducting. The three-movement symphony shows Hindemith’s great contrapuntal skill, and the organized logic of his thematic material. His melodies develop ever-expanding lines, and his skill in the organization and utilization of complex rhythmic variation adds spice and zest to the strength of his melodies. The first movement is in sonata allegro form in three sections, with the recapitulation economically utilizing both themes together in strong counterpoint. The second and third movements develop and expand their thematic material in some of the most memorable contrapuntal writing for winds. The second movement opens with an imitative duet between alto saxophone and cornet, accompanied by a repeated chord figure. The duet theme, along with thematic material from the opening movement, provides the basic material for the remainder of the movement. The closing section of the third movement utilizes the combined themes while the woodwinds amplify the incessant chattering of the first movement. The brass and percussion adamantly declare a halt with a powerful final cadence. The symphony rivals any orchestra composition in length, breadth and content, and served to convince other first-rank composers, including Giannini, Persichetti, Creston and Hovahness, that the band is a legitimate medium for serious music.

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