Paul Hindemith

Sonata for trumpet & piano

    Description by Jeremy Grimshaw

    Paul Hindemith's wide-ranging instrumental tastes are well known, as is his intimate knowledge of the performative, mechanical, and idiomatic properties and possibilities of each instrument for which he composed. This is certainly demonstrated in his extensive series of duo sonatas. In fact, fully half of Hindemith's compositions dating from 1939 are duo sonatas. Counted among these is the work under consideration here, the Sonata in B flat for Trumpet and Piano.

    An established favorite in the body of brass repertoire, the Sonata for Trumpet and Piano was probably Hindemith's last composition of very productive year, and one of his favorite accomplishments from the period; as he wrote to a friend, "it is maybe the best thing I have succeeded in doing in recent times, and that is quite a good sign, since I do not regard any of my newest productions as of little value." The burst of creativity culminating in the Trumpet Sonata came at a fortunate moment, as circumstances -- particularly the outbreak of World War II and the composer's subsequent emigration to the United States -- would impose such difficult obligations as to prevent any compositional output until the following summer.

    The work itself is cast in three movements, although in terms of length the first two together balance roughly with the last alone. One recognizes from the outset of the work's opening a clarity of thematic arrangement. The opening material, reflective of expressive marking in the score, "mit Kraft" (with strength), demarcates a sturdy melody made of more leaps than steps. This is later contrasted with a nimble figuration low in the piano, its underlying triplet feel and quick ornaments lending it a mysterious quality. The culmination of the movement occurs when these two elements fuse together: the trumpet returns to its firm opening melody at the same time as the piano works its triplet figuration into a shimmering frenzy. The moderately paced second movement conveys a vaguely march-like quality, one whose rhythmical nature is enhanced by the polychordal strands occurring separately in the treble and bass. As the movement proceeds, the trumpet and piano spin off into separate textural directions, the trumpet continuing its simple tune while the piano alternates between flowing triplet figures and angular countermelodies. As suggested by the subtitle, "Trauermusik" (music for mourning), the final movement assumes a somber tone, the emphasis on deliberate harmonic colorings and dramatic melodic iterations over intensifying accompanimental figures. The texture shifts between the overwhelming and the sparse, highlighting, on the one hand, pungent dissonances and bold lines, and on the other, pensive melodies and chordal colorings. The movement ends with a fitting musical allusion: a borrowed line from the chorale, "All Menschen müssen sterben" (All men must die).

    Parts/Movements

    1. Mit Kraft
    2. Mässig Bewegt
    3. Trauermusic and Chorale

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Channel Classics CCS 37716
    2016 Warner Classics 9029598772
    2015 Sony Classical 88875032222
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMC 905271
    2014 Summit Records PWSMT 643
    2013 Brilliant Classics 9447
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099941647
    2012 Sony Classical 88725413572
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2011 Doremi Records DHR7999
    2011 Raymond Riccomini 2011
    2010 Alba / ALBA 277
    2008 Brilliant Classics 8161
    2008 Sony Music Distribution 714838
    2008 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2003 Kleos Classics 5126
    2001 Fabula Classica 29906
    2001 Four Winds 3018
    2000 Rene Gailly 92024
    1999 Equilibrium 10
    1997 Arts Music 47123
    1996 Crystal Records Dist. 761
    1995 Summit Records 115
    1995 Capriccio Records 439
    1994 BIS 159
    1994 BIS 152
    1993 Crystal Records Dist. 663
    1993 Sony Classical 47193
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 52671
    Vox 7513
    MDG 3040696
    Kleos Classics 5118
    Deux-Elles 1109
    Suresh Singaratnam 1