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Paul Hindemith had a multifaceted career as an internationally acclaimed composer, performer, festival organizer, teacher, lecturer, and writer. Born in Germany in 1895, he was a leading member of the musical avant-garde, and when the Nazis came to power his compositions eventually were banned as "decadent art." In 1938 Hindemith went into voluntary exile in Switzerland and in 1940 migrated to the United States, where he became a citizen. His return to Europe after the war in response to urgent calls for help in rebuilding European musical life gave rise to many inner emotional problems. This selection of letters written by Hindemith spans his entire career, from the First World War until shortly before his death in 1963. Translated and edited by a leading authority on Hindemith, the letters (some of which were written in English) reveal that he was an observant, engaging, and opinionated correspondent who took a keen interest in contemporary culture and politics. The first such selection to appear in English, the letters deal with personal and professional matters and are addressed to his wife, publishers, and friends in both Europe and America. Among the many important personalities with whom he came into contact were the composers Stravinsky and Milhaud, the conductors Mengelberg, Furtwangler, Koussevitzky, and Klemperer, and the choreographers Massine and Balanchine. Published to coincide with the centenary of Hindemith's birth, the letters fill out our portrait of him and provide an absorbing chronicle of his life and times.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780300064513
ISBN-10: 0300064519
Format: Hardback
(235mm x 156mm x 17mm)
Pages: 270
Imprint: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publish Date: 25-Oct-1995
Country of Publication: United States


US Kirkus Review » 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 (1895-1963) 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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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