Paul Hindemith in 1953 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Hindemith: Wind sonatas (Warner)

Paul Hindemith’s music is extremely well-made, intelligent, civilised, and moderately witty — so why has it all but vanished?

Artillery Row Lebrecht's Album of the Week


When did you last hear Hindemith? Seriously, when did you last consciously select a piece of music by Paul Hindemith above all other composers living or dead, or go to a concert with one of his works? In his time (1895-1963), Hindemith was so prominent a modernist that the Nazis kicked him out of the country and so prolific a composer that, hearing of King George V’s death while in a BBC studio, before leaving the building he dashed off a musical lament to be performed that same day.

It’s a bit of a mystery why Hindemith has vanished so completely. Perhaps because he never wrote a signature work, one score that would stand forever among the world’s favourites. Or maybe he just wrote so much music that programmers cannot be bothered to sort the gems from the dross.

Hindemith was a very domesticated man who wrote a lot of music to be played by ordinary people at home

The gems are mostly to be found in his chamber music. Hindemith was a very domesticated man who wrote a lot of music to be played by ordinary people at home — Gebrauchsmusik, he called it: useful music. The present album of sonatas for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and tenor horn fall into this category. They are exquisitely played here by masterchefs Emanuel Pahud, Francois Leleux and other French soloists, with Eric Le Sage at the piano.

It’s all very congenial, very listenable — though you won’t ever hear it on Classic FM or BBC Radio 3 breakfast because there’s not a single tune to whistle with your washing-up, or a phrase that stops you in your tracks. It’s windy Hindy: extremely well-made music, intelligent, civilised, moderately witty. Play it in the background of your next Zoom meeting. The partners will be impressed.

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