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Paul Hindemith

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Nationality: German
Born: November 16, 1895, Hanau Died: December 28, 1963, Frankfurt (age 68)

Clarinet Quintet, Op. 30

(for 2 violins, viola, cello and clarinet)
2:18 I. Sehr lebhaft
6:39 II. Ruhig
5:50 III. Schneller Ländler
3:21 IV. Arioso
2:24 V. Sehr lebhaft
Duration: 24 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1923 (age 27-28)
Revised: 1954 (age 58-59)
2 recordings, 10 videos
autoopen autoplay
2:21
Valerius Ensemble
I. Sehr lebhaft
6:42
Valerius Ensemble
II. Ruhig
5:57
Valerius Ensemble
III. Schneller Ländler
3:17
Valerius Ensemble
IV. Arioso
2:31
Valerius Ensemble
V. Sehr lebhaft
2:15
Brunner, Amati Quartet
I. Sehr lebhaft
6:35
Brunner, Amati Quartet
II. Ruhig
5:43
Brunner, Amati Quartet
III. Schneller Ländler
3:24
Brunner, Amati Quartet
IV. Arioso
2:16
Brunner, Amati Quartet
V. Sehr lebhaft
From Kai Christiansen

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 30 (1923)
Paul HindemithPaul Hindemith was one of the most complete musicians of all time. A great 20th century instrumental composer, he was also a multi-instrumentalist, professional violist, professor (including a tenure at Yale) and master theorist who wrote several texts based on his own comprehensive worldview of musical meaning. While much of his music explores a diversity of 20th century techniques, Hindemith's music is largely tonal, melodic and artfully crafted. A huge body of excellent works for an astonishingly broad range of instrumental ensembles characterizes Hindemith as, first and foremost, a composer of chamber music.

Hindemith composed the Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 30 in 1923 when he was twenty-eight. Relatively brief but deliciously dense and diverse, the quintet clocks in at around eighteen minutes with a sequence of five movements that, by the standards of even Mozart, are miniatures. But this is no disconnected suite. There are extraordinary connections across movements making this an integrated, coherent entity with the formal plan of the classical masters just beneath the surface. Throughout, there is a rich tunefulness that simply "works."

The quintet begins with a muscular, motoric theme: a five-note motto that spawns related thematic variations and permutations across the entire work. Like columns that frame a symmetric structure, the first and last movements are related. A close inspection reveals that the last movement is precisely the first movement in reverse. Technically called retrograde or crab motion, it is the first movement played backwards. The slow movement comes second. Quiet, restful, it rises without pause out of the first movement with a sinuous theme in the cello. Each of the players joins in turn, imitating the theme in the manner of a canon or fugue. The clarinet is held in reserve yielding a powerful effect upon its entrance. The music features the slowing down and spacing out of the theme in the clarinet (known as augmentation) magically accompanied by the theme at its normal speed in the strings.

The central movement serves as the scherzo, in this case, coyly named "Schneller Ländler", a faster Ländler. The Ländler is an Austrian folk dance in a moderate triple meter that predates its faster cousin, the Waltz. Hindemith delivers a kind of whirling dervish, a fantastical dream of Ländlers, Waltzes, folk tunes and organ grinders in a colorful, energetic sweep. The brief Arioso is a startling point of contrast and repose. Exotic, sensuous and haunting, a single violin sings a shivering entreaty, a siren song from another world. Three simple, unadorned incantations from the clarinet enhance the singularity of this mysterious oasis of repose. The furthest point of musical remove in the whole quintet, its magic only briefly lingers before the strident beginning, backwards, becomes the end. This is music beholding itself in a mirror.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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