Composers Datebook for November 21, 2011



Produced in association with the American Composers Forum

Monday, November 21

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Hindemith in E-flat (and in Minneapolis)

On today's date in 1941, the famous Greek-born conductor, Dimitri Mitropoulos, led the Minneapolis Symphony in the premiere performance of a new symphony by the German composer, Paul Hindemith, who came to Minnesota for the performance.

Mitropoulos was an ardent promoter of new music, but few of the contemporary works he programmed were welcomed by audiences or the critics with much enthusiasm. Hindemith's reputation as an atonal composer had preceded him, but, surprisingly, his new piece for Minneapolis was billed as a "Symphony in Eb Major" and, much to the delight of all concerned, featured recognizable tunes.

"His themes were melodious, instantly recognizable and easily followed," wrote the critic of the Minneapolis Tribune, concluding, "It was marked by musical honesty and sincerity [and] it should be heard again soon, not only in Minneapolis, but by other concert audiences the country over."

By chance, another famous composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, was in Minneapolis that day, and was invited by Mitropoulos to attend the Hindemith premiere backstage, where he wouldn't be annoyed by autograph seekers. Rachmaninoff had a very pessimistic view of modern music, but Mitropoulos was sure the famously dour Russian would like Hindemith's resolutely tonal new symphony.

Rachmaninoff was positioned just off stage, and after the end of the symphony, which was received with great applause, Mitropoulos passed him as he left the stage. "Well?" asked Mitropoulos. "No goooood," was Rachmaninoff's lugubrious response.

Music Played on Today's Program:

Paul Hindemith
(1895 - 1963):
Symphony in Eb
BBC Philharmonic;
Yan Pascal Tortelier, cond.
Chandos 9060

Additional Information:

On Hindemith

About the Program
Composers Datebook is a daily program about composers of the past and present, hosted by John Zech.

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