Books by Paul Hindemith

Released: Nov. 15, 1995

An engaging selection of correspondences—by turns thoughtful, funny, businesslike, and touching—from one of the century's preeminent musical figures. Neatly timed to coincide with both the centenary of Hindemith's birth and a shamefully belated production of his operatic masterpiece Mathis der Maler at the New York City Opera, this volume edited by Hindemith biographer Skelton offers a wise and wide choice from a lifetime of letters written by the composer, the first English translation of his correspondence. Hindemith (18951963) was a protean musician, not ``merely'' a composer of world renown, but a theorist of musical modernism, an organizer of concerts and festivals of contemporary music, an active professional performer on the violin and the viola, and, not least, a pedagogue whom Yale was wise enough to snatch up shortly after his immigration to America in 1940 (in one of his characteristically realistic career assessments, Hindemith intimates that it would be no use applying to Harvard for a teaching position because ``they already have Nadia [Boulanger] and Igor [Stravinsky]''). Hindemith, ever an advocate for the ``useful'' in art, approached correspondence as a medium to record his activities and transmit his plans rather than as an independent aesthetic exercise. Still, there is rarely a letter without some touch of dry humor or personal feeling. Not surprisingly, most of the letters chosen for this volume come from the decades of the 1930s and '40s, when Hindemith the outspoken modernist (although not Jewish) saw his music banned as ``decadent'' in his native Germany, and he and his wife were forced to flee from the Nazis. The letters are arranged chronologically and linked by the editor's deft but minimal interpolations to identify people or references. As a result, this volume can be read by itself as an introduction to an attractive personality but may be even more meaningful if taken in conjunction with a full biography. One of the giants, in his own words. Read full book review >