Paul Hindemith – Slow Piece & Rondo, for trautonium (Lost. Preserved in a reconstruction by Oskar Sala) (1935)

I. Slow piece
II. Rondo (2:39)

Oskar Sala, trautonium

The trautonium is a monophonic electronic musical instrument invented about 1929 by Friedrich Trautwein in Berlin at the Musikhochschule’s music and radio lab, the Rundfunkversuchstelle. Soon Oskar Sala joined him, continuing development until Sala’s death in 2002.

Instead of a keyboard, its manual is made of a resistor wire over a metal plate, which is pressed to create a sound. Expressive playing was possible with this wire by gliding on it, creating vibrato with small movements. Volume was controlled by the pressure of the finger on the wire and board. The first Trautoniums were marketed by Telefunken from 1933-35 (200 were made).

The sounds were at first produced by neon-tube relaxation oscillators (later, thyratrons, then transistors), which produced sawtooth-like waveforms. The pitch was determined by the amount of resistive wire chosen by the performer (allowing vibrato, quarter-tones, and portamento). The oscillator output was fed into two parallel resonant filter circuits. A footpedal controlled the volume ratio of the output of the two filters, which was sent to an amplifier.

On 20 June 1930 Oskar Sala and Paul Hindemith gave a public performance at the Berliner Musikhochschule Hall called “Neue Musik Berlin 1930″ to introduce the Trautonium. Later, Oskar Sala toured Germany with the Trautonium; in 1931 he was the soloist in a performance of Hindemith’s Concert for Trautonium with String Quartet. He also soloed in the debut of Hindemith’s student Harald Genzmer’s “Concert for Trautonium and Orchestra”.

Paul Hindemith wrote several short trios for three Trautoniums with three different tunings: bass, middle, and high voice. His student, Harald Genzmer, wrote two concertos with orchestra, one for the monophonic Trautonium and, later, one for Oskar Sala’s “Mixtur-Trautonium”. One of the first additions of Sala was to add a switch for changing the static tuning. Later he added a noise generator and an envelope generator (so called ‘Schlagwerk’), formant filter (several bandpass filters) and the subharmonic oscillators. These oscillators generate a main pitch and several harmonics, which are not multiples of the fundamental tone, but fractions of it. For any of the now two manuals, four of these waves can be mixed and the player can switch through these predefined settings. Thus, it was called the “Mixtur-Trautonium”. Oskar Sala composed music for industrial films, but the most famous was the bird noises for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The Trautonium was also used in the Dresden première of Richard Strauss’s Japanese Festival Music in 1942 for emulating the gongs- and bells-parts and in the 1950s in Bayreuth for the Monsalvat bells in Wagner’s Parsifal. []

Art by Aristarkh Lentulov


Paul Hindemith – Symphonie “Mathis der Maler” (1934)

Symphony: Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter) is among the most famous orchestral works of German composer Paul Hindemith. The symphony is based on themes from Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler, which concerns the painter (in German, “Maler”) Matthias Grünewald (or Neithardt). Hindemith composed the symphony in 1934, before he had completed work on the opera. The conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler asked him at that time for a new work to perform on an upcoming Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra concert tour, and Hindemith decided to use themes from the opera in a symphony as a ‘trial run’ for the music. Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic gave the first performance on March 12, 1934. The first performance outside Germany was given by the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra in October 1934, conducted by Otto Klemperer. Other performances include the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936, conducted by Daniel Sternberg. The symphony was well received at its first performances, but Furtwängler faced severe criticism from the Nazi government for performing music that seemed to oppose party ideology. Hindemith completed the full opera by 1935 but, because of the political climate, its premiere was delayed until 1938 in Zürich, Switzerland.

Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini in Boston March 29, 1974:


[via Zdenka Pregelj on Google+]

Paul Hindemith – Sonata for viola and piano in F major, Op.11, No.4 (1919)

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). Hindemith is among the most significant German composers of his time. His early works are in a late romantic idiom, and he later produced expressionist works, rather in the style of early Arnold Schoenberg, before developing a leaner, contrapuntally complex style in the 1920s. This style has been described as neoclassical, but is very different from the works by Igor Stavinsky labeled with that term, owing more to the contrapuntal language of Johann Sebastian Bach and Max Reger than the Classical clarity of Mozart. [source]

1. Phantasie (3:06)
2. Thema mit Variationen (4:01)
3. Finale mit Variationen (10:09)

Kim Kaskashian – Viola
Robert Levin – Piano

From: Paul Hindemith – Kim Kashkashian – Robert Levin ‎- Sonatas For Viola And Piano And Viola Alone, released in 1988.


The Darmstadt school's British invasion

In many ways, Darmstadt is a typical German city. It has a local beer, an opera house, parks and museums and an efficient tram network, and one night in September 1944 it was devastated by an Allied bombing raid. When people emerged from the shelters, they discovered a city in which four out of every five buildings was ruined. A year later, with the second world war over, reconstruction began. The fabric of the city was slowly restored – buildings, jobs, a political structure – and in the process, more or less by accident, something remarkable happened.

Casting around for ways to regenerate cultural life in the city, its new mayor, Ludwig Metzger, was persuaded by a local musicologist, Wolfgang Steinecke, to consider the possibility of establishing an institute for contemporary music. Because Darmstadt was in the American- controlled zone of occupied Germany, Metzger and Steinecke needed the approval of the American forces to develop their ideas and by happy coincidence the officer in charge of such initiatives was a former Harvard University music student, Everett Helms. The permissions were granted, and in the summer of 1946, American army trucks delivered grand pianos to a hunting lodge on the outskirts of Darmstadt, the temporary home for the first “courses for international new music”.

The courses were initially intended to denazify German musicians by introducing them to the modern music of the 1930s and 40s, music by Bartók, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, all of which had been outlawed as “degenerate” under Hitler. But soon new music by the next generation of composers became part of the courses too and by the early 1950s, the summer school, now subtly redesignated as the “international courses for new music”, was acquiring a reputation as the meeting place for aspiring avantgardistes not only from Germany but across Europe and beyond.

Read the full article in The Guardian here.