Work of the Week - Paul Hindemith: Mathis der Maler
The 2012 Züricher Festspiele opens on 16 June with a new production of Hindemith’s classic opera Mathis der Maler directed by Matthias Hartmann and conducted by Daniele Gatti. The libretto which Hindemith wrote himself, tells the story of Matthias (Matthis) Grünewald, an artist searching to explain the relationship between art and its creator in times of political crisis. The opera was completed in 1935 during the rise of the Nazi party and by the time of the world premiere in Zurich (1938) Hindemith’s music had been banned in Germany. Matthis (ca. 1475-1528) lived at the time of the peasant wars but Hindemith highlights parallels in the political troubles of his current situation. "Where there is room for combat and blood, art cannot thrive."
Hindemith describes how his own work developed by stating:
Old folks songs, controversial-songs of the Reformation and the Gregorian chant build the fertile ground for the Mathis music which shall spread at least a weak reflection of light under which warming glow it arose: The glow of a refreshing spirit of one of the greatest artists we ever had.
The three instrumental movements composed alongside Hindemith`s work - "Engelkonzert", "Grablegung" and "Versuchung des heiligen Antonius" - were combined to form the Symphony 'Mathis der Maler' which received its first performance by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Furtwängler in March 1934. The outstanding success of this work was followed by a massive wave of propaganda denouncing Hindemith spread by National Socialist cultural politicians. After Furtwängler’s failed attempts to protect Hindemith, the composer retreated stepwise from Germany, emigrating to Switzerland in 1938 and in 1940 to the USA.
In addition to the new production, a matinee performance of Hindemith’s chamber music will take place on 17 June 2012 in the opera in Zurich.
For more information about Hindemith’s operas, ballets and music theatre you can download or order the new Guide to the Stage Works by following the link below.
photo: Hamburgische Staatsoper