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Clarinet Quintet Op.30

Paul Hindemith (b. 1895 - d. 1963)

Jörg Widmann (photo credit: Marco Borggreve)

Jörg Widmann (photo credit: Marco Borggreve)

Composer
Paul Hindemith (b. 1895 - d. 1963)
Composition Year
1923/54
Work Movements
1. Sehr lebhaft
2. Ruhig
3. Schneller Ländler
4. Arioso: Sehr ruhig
5. Sehr lebhaft
Artists
RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins], Simon Aspell [viola], Christopher Marwood [cello]), Jörg Widmann [clarinet]

Programme Note Writer:
© Fíacha O'Dubhda

Hindemith was one of the composers the Nazis labelled as degenerate. Most of the so-called Entartete Musik was written by composers who were banned simply on racial grounds, but Hindemith’s offence was entirely musical. Any music the Nazis disapproved of was labelled atonal (even if it was not), un-German and therefore degenerate, as Rosenberg put it the whole atonal movement is contradictory to the rhythm of blood and soul of the German nation.

The performance of his music in Nazi Germany was unofficially banned and the press under Goebbel’s direction mounted a vitriolic attack on him, which led to Furtwängler’s famous defence of him – Where will it lead if we begin to apply the methods of political denunciation to art? For a long time Hindemith seemed to think that the Nazis were a temporary phenomenon and in 1935 he took refuge with a teaching post in Turkey, presumably hoping that the German people would come to their senses. However when his educational treatise The Craft of Musical Composition ended up in the famous exhibition of Entartete Musik in 1938, he realised it was time to go. In September 1938 he finally left Germany and moved to Switzerland, still reluctant to leave German-speaking Europe altogether and he only moved to the United States in 1940.

Hindemith’s Clarinet Quintet was composed in 1923, directly notated to instrumental parts for a performance with the Amar String Quartet. Composed during a period of frantic activity in Hindemith’s life that saw him play over a hundred concerts a year as violist with the Amar Quartet, it was not until 1954 that Hindemith published a score for the work, including some major revisions. Like many of Hindemith’s works the Clarinet Quintet is something of an anachronism, a medley of compositional languages, simultaneously dark and comic, yet magnificent fun for the listener.

Based on a cyclical structure and played without a break, the quintet opens with a highly quirky and animated theme that sees a repeated melodic motif passed back and forward between the strings and clarinet. The second movement presents a slow and languid passage for strings; their wandering atonality ameliorated by the clear and animated melodies of the clarinet, its tone tentatively teasing the strings into brighter sentiments.

The central movement uses the E-flat soprano clarinet, normally confined to orchestral and marching band music. Its mood is raucous, the clarinet soaring high and flighty over bold, swaggering string passages. The Arioso is an accompanied song for first violin, its sensuous melody gliding with ease over ominous pizzicato, the clarinet offering no more than occasional legato interruptions to punctuate the quartet. The concluding Sehr lebhaft is the retrograde form of the first movement, reflective of the same musical events; a surreal recapitulation that spins us around and spits us out exactly where we started. 

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Clarinet Quintet Op.30

Composer: Paul Hindemith (b. 1895 - d. 1963)
Performance date: Wednesday 30th June 2010
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Paul Hindemith (b. 1895 - d. 1963)
Work Title Clarinet Quintet Op.30
Composition Year 1923/54
Work Movements 1. Sehr lebhaft
2. Ruhig
3. Schneller Ländler
4. Arioso: Sehr ruhig
5. Sehr lebhaft
Artist(s) RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins], Simon Aspell [viola], Christopher Marwood [cello]), Jörg Widmann [clarinet]
Performance Date Wednesday 30th June 2010
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:20:54
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Clarinet Quintet
Instrumentation cl, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Fíacha O'Dubhda

Hindemith was one of the composers the Nazis labelled as degenerate. Most of the so-called Entartete Musik was written by composers who were banned simply on racial grounds, but Hindemith’s offence was entirely musical. Any music the Nazis disapproved of was labelled atonal (even if it was not), un-German and therefore degenerate, as Rosenberg put it the whole atonal movement is contradictory to the rhythm of blood and soul of the German nation.

The performance of his music in Nazi Germany was unofficially banned and the press under Goebbel’s direction mounted a vitriolic attack on him, which led to Furtwängler’s famous defence of him – Where will it lead if we begin to apply the methods of political denunciation to art? For a long time Hindemith seemed to think that the Nazis were a temporary phenomenon and in 1935 he took refuge with a teaching post in Turkey, presumably hoping that the German people would come to their senses. However when his educational treatise The Craft of Musical Composition ended up in the famous exhibition of Entartete Musik in 1938, he realised it was time to go. In September 1938 he finally left Germany and moved to Switzerland, still reluctant to leave German-speaking Europe altogether and he only moved to the United States in 1940.

Hindemith’s Clarinet Quintet was composed in 1923, directly notated to instrumental parts for a performance with the Amar String Quartet. Composed during a period of frantic activity in Hindemith’s life that saw him play over a hundred concerts a year as violist with the Amar Quartet, it was not until 1954 that Hindemith published a score for the work, including some major revisions. Like many of Hindemith’s works the Clarinet Quintet is something of an anachronism, a medley of compositional languages, simultaneously dark and comic, yet magnificent fun for the listener.

Based on a cyclical structure and played without a break, the quintet opens with a highly quirky and animated theme that sees a repeated melodic motif passed back and forward between the strings and clarinet. The second movement presents a slow and languid passage for strings; their wandering atonality ameliorated by the clear and animated melodies of the clarinet, its tone tentatively teasing the strings into brighter sentiments.

The central movement uses the E-flat soprano clarinet, normally confined to orchestral and marching band music. Its mood is raucous, the clarinet soaring high and flighty over bold, swaggering string passages. The Arioso is an accompanied song for first violin, its sensuous melody gliding with ease over ominous pizzicato, the clarinet offering no more than occasional legato interruptions to punctuate the quartet. The concluding Sehr lebhaft is the retrograde form of the first movement, reflective of the same musical events; a surreal recapitulation that spins us around and spits us out exactly where we started.