Peter Ouwerkerk: Paul Hindemith and the organ

by Peter Ouwerkerk | Het ORGEL | Year 95 | (1999) | Issue 27


Peter Ouwerkerk Paul Hindemith and the organ
het ORGEL 95 (1999), nr. 6, 5-14 [summary]

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was one of Germany’s mostimportant composers in the 1920s and 1930s. After the Second World War his fame declined.Hindemith’s œuvre is vast; his organ works represent only a small part of it.The Konzert für Orgel und Kammerorchester (Kammermusik No. 7 / Opus 46 No. 2, 1927) waswritten for the inauguration of the Weigle organ at the Frankfurter Rundfunk. Hindemithsremarks about this organ indicate that he fancied the ideas of the Orgelbewegung, but didnot quite understand the details: ‘Ich bin kein Orgelfachmann.’ Since 1927Hindemith tried to construct a theory on which to base his compositional technique. In1937 he published this theory, entitled Unterweisung im Tonsatz. According to theUnterweisung, the triad is the beginning and the end of all music. Hindemith compares itwith the three primary colours in painting and the three dimensions in architecture. Inthe same year, Hindemith published his first two organ sonatas as well. The first one ischaracterised by very precise indications with regard to articulation and phrasing; thesecond Sonata is less complicated and less representative for Hindemith’s style. Thethird Sonata was composed in 1940, after Hindemith had emigrated to the United States. Itis based on three ancient German folk songs. Remarkable is the large number of crescendi-and decrescendi-indications, which require a register crescendo. The Concerto for Organand Orchestra (1962/1963) is one of Hindemith’s last works. It was written for theinauguration of the organ at Lincoln Center, New York. Hindemith did not consider it oneof his best compositions. Hindemith’s remarks about organs and the indications in hisorgan music are not coherent enough to enable us to draw conclusions about the idealHindemith organ.