The month Germany lost two giants

The month Germany lost two giants


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2013

December 1963 saw the deaths of two German composers who, each in a different way, stood up against their country’s Nazi government.

Paul Hindemith left the country in 1935 once it was made clear to him that his music would not be performed again.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann (pictured) made a principled decision in 1933 that his music would not be played in Germany so long as Hitler was in power.

Hindemith, after a period teaching in Turkey, found a comfortable exile at Yale.

Hartmann, who revived modernism in Munich after the War, has never achieved recognition outside his native land.

His second string quartet is my album of the week on Sinfinimusic. Read here.KarlAmadeusHartmann


  • K:A.Hartmann is definitely an overlooked composer. His music is marvelous synthesis of Mahler, Webern and Berg. I love it!

    His quartets are amazing, but also his symphonies. And don’t forget his opera “Simplicius Simplicimus”.

  • Tully Potter says:

    Hindemith did not leave in 1935. He moved to Switzerland in 1938, and to the United States in 1939. He had been teaching in Turkey since 1933 and this continued until his eventual emigration.

  • David Foulger says:

    Hartmann is overlooked even by the Berlin Philharmonic, who only have one work of his on their otherwise admirable Digital Concert Hall. Come on Sir Simon, let’s have those Symphonies, they are terrific.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Well, Rattle isn’t the only conductor out there! Ingo Metzmacher has been a strong champion of Hartmann’s work, he even recorded all the symphonies with the Bamberger Symphoniker. They are available as a complete set or as individual releases coupled with other interesting 20th century works.

      The Bayerischer Rundfunk also produced a complete set of his symphonies with its orchestra. Most of the recordings in that set are conducted by the great Rafael Kubelík!

  • James says:

    Ditto Hindemith, though Rattle has put one of the Symphonic Dances on the New Year’s Concert. Otherwise, he has done very little to mark Hindemith’s birth and death, let alone his life.

  • I selected Hartmann’s Eighth Symphony for my Ph.D. orals presentation at UC Berkeley. There was no evidence from the committee that they had ever once listened to it. It was too much to ask that they do homework for a candidate before he risks his life. Later, when I played it for Kent Nagano over dinner at my place at Eight and Lincoln, Kent, who had never at the time heard of Hartmann, was appropriately blown away by it. I remember well that the passage measures 122-129 particularly impressed him. That is a correct place to be impressed. That was the night Kent told me he wasn’t really interested in young composers, he was interested in, as he put it, “old farts, like Messiaen.” Kent had also not heard of Gyoergy Kurtag until we had lunch on Hayes Street. All of Kent’s Hartmann and Kurtag is thanks to me. (The New Yorker also mistakenly attributed the premiere of the Scenes from a Novel; it was not Speculum that first gave it in the US, it was me and my Composers Chamber Players. But EMB gave me proper credit in their newsletter, and GK called that program the first all-Kurtag program in the US.) Of course he has no use for me now, and even refused to help me get back in touch with Paul Moor. Lives in a big house, flies around the world, but keeps the pathetic cab driver in the gutter. Damn straight I’m bitter. Metzmacher did the Sixth Symphony in SF a few years ago. It was under-rehearsed and the balances were muddy. The orchestra hadn’t quite learned to count through every sixteenth note, as Hartmann put it; Hartmann divides up time very carefully and his fantastic harmony can be self-defeating if the rhythm is not correct. They ought to do it some more while there is some memory of the previous performance. But to do that MTT would have to have a genuine interest in Expressionism, which he doesn’t.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I hear you, dude. If I had a PhD but was a cab driver, I would be bitter, too.

      I think. I don’t really know since I don’t have a PhD

      • Michael, it’s a pleasure to agree with you. May you never study fourteen years to be shoved by pitiless circumstance behind the wheel and told you’re making others happy. I do feel it is true that I do get to keep my “dudehood,” whatever else I am made to put up with because I disagree with too many people about too many things to become popular. A lot of composers saying what the critics or even their students expect them to say aren’t dudes. As a cab driver, I’m a composer dude. Thanks.