Selected Letters of Paul Hindemith


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Paul Hindemith; Edited by Geoffrey Skelton; Translated by Geoffrey Skelton

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Paul Hindemith had a multifaceted career as an internationally acclaimed composer, performer, festival organizer, teacher, lecturer, and writer. Born in Germany in 1895, he was a leading member of the musical avant-garde, and when the Nazis came to power his compositions eventually were banned as "decadent art." In 1938 Hindemith went into voluntary exile in Switzerland and in 1940 migrated to the United States, where he became a citizen. His return to Europe after the war in response to urgent calls for help in rebuilding European musical life gave rise to many inner emotional problems.

This selection of letters written by Hindemith spans his entire career, from the First World War until shortly before his death in 1963. Translated and edited by a leading authority on Hindemith, the letters (some of which were written in English) reveal that he was an observant, engaging, and opinionated correspondent who took a keen interest in contemporary culture and politics. The first such selection to appear in English, the letters deal with personal and professional matters and are addressed to his wife, publishers, and friends in both Europe and America. Among the many important personalities with whom he came into contact were the composers Stravinsky and Milhaud, the conductors Mengelberg, Furtwängler, Koussevitzky, and Klemperer, and the choreographers Massine and Balanchine.

Published to coincide with the centenary of Hindemith's birth, the letters fill out our portrait of him and provide an absorbing chronicle of his life and times.

Geoffrey Skelton is the author of Paul Hindemith: The Man Behind the Music and many other books and translations from the German.

"There is currently no edition of Hindemith's letters in print in any language. This volume includes a fine selection of letters, beautifully translated, annotated, and introduced. It will undoubtedly become an important source for twentieth-century music history."—Stephen Hinton, Stanford University

"An engaging selection of correspondences — by turns thoughtful, funny, businesslike, and touching — from one of the century's preeminent musical figures."—Kirkus Reviews

"Geoffrey Skelton's editing of the letters—a number were written in English—has been scrupulously executed. . . . Yale has done her former visiting professor proud with this book."—Peter Palmer, Music & Letters

"[The letters] provide abundant evidence of a playful sense of humour and considerable business acumen, as well as more general musings on the nature of composition, touring and various works in progress. . . . A well-researched and valuable book."—Guy Rickards, Times Literary Supplement

"The first volume of Hindemith's correspondence to appear in English, this is a book that should be in every undergraduate library. The letters (nearly two hundred) are translated with elegance and accuracy. . . .The book is highly readable, and from it emerges a good picture of Hindemith's personality and professional life."—David Neumeyer, Indiana University-Bloomington Note

"A welcome gift to music lovers, this volume is also a comment on the passage of time and a tribute to the art of writing letters. . . . Geoffrey Skelton has compiled quite a remarkable collection of primary source material that relates broadly to the lives of German exiled composers living in the United States during the Second World War. . . . He has also done a remarkable job of translation, so that the difference between his English usage and Hindemith's own written English is only subtly evident. In the hands of Skelton, a skilled editor and writer, this selection of letters makes for an extremely readable book."—Johann Buis, Kurt Weill Newsletter

ISBN: 9780300064513
Publication Date: October 25, 1995
270 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 b/w illus.