Friday, April 21, 2006

Pianist, Writer, And Philosopher Glenn Gould On Paul Hindemith's Early Masterpiece, The Rilke 'Marienleben' Cycle Of Fifteen Songs.

... "Today's concert we style "Hindemith-the early years," and the latest work on the program, the Piano Sonata No. 3, comes from 1936. In other words, we survey only thirteen years of composition and follow Hindemith only up to that point from which it seems the formulations of his mature style have been attained. The fascinating thing about this program though is that, while the Piano Sonata suggests the Hindemith which we know and which we can to some degree proclaim predictable, it fulfills as a "mature" work only part of the promise of the Sonata for Unaccompanied 'Cello and of the Marienleben Cycle. This is not to say that it is not a better work than its forerunners. Of course it is. It is, by all the standards which we can apply to a musician's craft independent of our approval or disapproval of his esthetic, an extremely skillful, well coordinated piece of work. Then why does it disappoint us so much? Why, with all this dexterity, this adroit counterpoint, is there so much missing in this sonata? I suppose no one really knows the answer to that, if there is one, except Paul Hindemith but I would suggest that what is missing is that sense of adventure, of uncertainty, of awkwardness even, which makes such human documents of the 'Cello Sonata and especially the Marienleben. They represent to us a young man (he was 29 when he composed the Marienleben in its original version which we perform today) struggling with all the incomprehensible vastness of the world of music -- a world which in his youth had received the shattering impact of the knowledge of its own obverse -- the knowledge of atonality. And both the natural resources and the consequential limitations of atonality lay yawning before Paul Hindemith as they did before all the young people of his generation.

It is rather obvious that the works of Hindemith which most closely approximate the total acceptance of this total dissonance, are the works of his early youth. He is never, however, found to be composing without some reference to a centrifugal order. But the gravitational sense in Hindemith, the sense of tonal adjustment as it were, is not sponsored primarily by a reflection of the ardent tonal-chromatic procedures of the German romantics. The tonal sense in Hindemith is on the whole a rather unique one and in the early works particularly one which is both pliable and coherent and which proves to be for these experimental years of his a most satisfactory governing discipline. His harmonic sense is not one which accepts without challenge the convention of triadic harmony as a source of resolution though it does, if only through the psychological perversity of the listener, insist upon building its own somewhat equivalent structures. He does, however, build several of the Marienleben Songs, noticeably the specifically contrapuntal ones such as The Presentation in the Temple (No. 2) and the first two parts of The Death of Mary, upon a manner of voice leading and contrapuntal interplay which is not terribly far removed, except by a certain reluctant embarrassment to cadence decisively, from the part writing of most of the late German romantics. He also, however, manages to build a good many of the other songs, most particularly The Birth of Mary (No. 1), upon a quite unique concept of the relativity of harmonic 4th chords and their triadic counterparts. And, still again, there appears in songs like The Marriage at Cana the kind of early Renaissance contrapuntal jamboree that became such a prominent part of Hindemith's mature fugal style. In short, the Marienleben is hardly tied together by a single idiomatic thread nor is it, in the organized sense of the Schonbergians, a tidy, neat composition motivically. What it really contains are fifteen of the most splendidly promising songs of our age -- fifteen songs which asked the question very distinctly in 1923 -- what will happen to Paul Hindemith?" ...

Excerpt from Hindemith - "The Early Years" by Glenn Gould

Published in the Stratford Festival concert program, July 29, 1962.

Lviv, Ukraine's 13th century Armenian Church.

Lviv, Ukraine's Armenian church is one of the most ancient churches in Lviv, dating back to the 13th century. In 2001, this sacral place was returned to the renewed Armenian Apostle church. The name of the church was also renewed and became the Virgin Mary's Dormition church.

The interior of the Church features several haunting, symbolist Polish religious frescos painted in the early twentieth century.


At Catholic and Orthodox Easter, the Eastern and Western Christian Churches of Lviv are filled with fresh-cut pine trees from the surrounding forests.

Photo credit: With thanks.


Lviv Ecotourism Company:

Lviv History Museum:


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