SONATA FOR HORN AND PIANO by Paul Hindemith
INSTRUMENTATION: Horn and Piano
PUBLISHER: 1939, B. Schott Shöne, Mainz renewed 1968
Movement 1: Mässig bewegt — 162 measures, approx. 6m10s
Movement 2: Ruhig bewegt — 126 measures, approx. 4m40s
Movement 3: Lebhaft – Langsam – Lebhaft — 179 measures, approx. 7m00s
CAN BE FOUND ON IMSLP: Yes
SPOTIFY: Gail Williams, Hindemith: Complete Brass Works
iTUNES: Mason Jones, The Glenn Gould Edition
GRADE/DIFFICULTY (1 easy, 6 very difficult): 4 for the hornist, 5 for the pianist
EXTENDED TECHNIQUES: none
RANGE (horn pitch):
Douglas Hill wrote that Hindemith’s Sonata in F stands alone as the finest sonata for the horn of the twentieth century. I am not one to argue. Paul Hindemith (1895 – 1963) was a German born composer who further opened the door to pragmatic music through his wish to get through the horrific contemporary events of anti-semitism with satisfactory work. Hindemith and his wife emigrated to the United States, through a stop in Switzerland, in 1939 eventually landing a job teaching composition at Yale University in 1940.
Hindemith’s writing for this sonata takes on a system that is tonal but non-diatonic especially noticeable in his use of non-functional harmony. All 12 notes are used freely in his melodies that are non-triadic and rely on both chromaticism and large leaps. Rhythmically, Hindemith’s unrelenting pulsations are a key factor in plowing through his harmonic language usually tied to some sort of 8th and two 16th rhythmic variant. Hindemith wrote a sonata for every orchestral instrument during this time and many musicologists seem to tie in the world events occurring in his home country to the incessant, dark qualities of his melodic figures and harmonic structures.
The tempo markings indicated at the beginning of each movement of the sonata are to be taken seriously. Hindemith has provided the contrasts desired through his compositional content thus alleviating any need for the performers to vary from the indicated tempo. This is not to say that the piece should not be able to breathe but it is important to allow Hindemith’s compositional language to speak rather than overly dramatizing any sort of personal tempo desires. As for Mr. Hill’s earlier comment, this piece must be consistently played and rediscovered by every generation in order to keep its place as the finest sonata for horn in the twentieth century.