Video: Hindemith’s edgy homecoming

Video: Hindemith’s edgy homecoming


norman lebrecht

August 09, 2014

Newly retrieved film of Paul Hindemith conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in 1949 conveys some degree of tension between the composer, forced to emigrate in the late 1930s, and the somewhat threadbare resident players.

The commentary says he left Germany for America in 1934. This is untrue. Hindemith was not denounced by Goebbels until December 1934. He took a teaching post in Turkey in the hope he might yet return, moved to Switzerland in 1938 and finally fled to the US in 1940.

(Click on word ‘Post’ if video does not pop out)

hindemith berlin
pictured: Hindemith (left) receiving an honorary doctorate in Berlin, 1950


  • Hindemith: “Hey, guys, anything interesting happen here while I was away? I haven’t seen a paper in ages!”

  • Dave T says:

    Berliner: “Hey Paul, we’re cool, right? I mean, no hard feelings or nothing. So,what you been up to?”

  • Richard Dey says:

    When I was a kid a bunch of composers avoiding WWII stayed on one of Cape Cod’s innumerable pothole ponds (they’re fresh, of filtered seawater), and walking around it this fat German guy stopped to talk to my grandfather. He patted me on the head and said that I’d take up the horn. Well, I tried, but I do count myself Hindemith’s only musical failure. As a tot really, I got ‘composer’ (Paul Hindemith) and ‘composter’ (my grandfather Oscar Anderson) somewhat confused. I wasn’t entirely off track; some whistling composters and some farting composers have too. Great men passing through memory bound for oblivion; the world is small, man smaller yet.