Symphony in B-flat
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
by Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Curry, commander of the United States Army Band, this
1951 composition by Paul Hindemith was first performed in Washington, D. C., the
same year, with the composer conducting. This three-movement work is the only
symphony that Hindemith wrote expressly for the wind band. Although Symphony in
B-flat features unique uses of dissonant chords and non-harmonic tones, it
preserves neo-classical tonality, forms, and rhythmic and melodic patterns.
Short figures are apt to form themselves into ostinatos to provide the
background to broad and declamatory melodies; these melodies will often repeat
characteristic phrases of awkward lengths so as to disturb the even flow of the
basic rhythm. A slow section will alternate with a scherzando section,
and the two will combine to form the third portion of a movement.
symphonyfs opening movement is ternary in form. The A section contains three
ideas: the first is a wide, sweeping melody; the second an extended passage
built on a short figure and set exclusively for woodwind; and the third, which
is preceded by a long unison woodwind passage, an impressive chorale-like melody
announced by the horns and building in the brass to a triumphant climax. The
short B section is concerned with a jerky fugato and its characteristic
Andantino grazioso largely comprises a dialogue between alto saxophone
and cornet on a quiet but oddly cheerful little tune, while the scherzo,
which it afterwards joins in combination, is a rapid, bustling affair given
entirely to woodwind and tambourine.
The symphony ends boisterously with a fugue whose energetic exposition is followed by a further exposition in stretto. After a quieter middle section in which a graceful new theme is worked out at length, the fugue subject returns suddenly in full force and the two combine. When this is in full swing, the broad opening melody of the first movement is thundered out by trumpets and trombones, with all the three themes making a splendid counterpoint. Eventually the two subjects of the last movement drop out, and the symphony ends with tremendous final statement of the melody with which it began.
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