Trauermusik

I am listening to this pice by Paul Hindemith called Trauermusik right now. Actually, I have the one track set to loop over and over, this is about the 5th time this session, and I listened to it this morning a few times too. I’m not sure what it is about this particular pice with me, but sometimes I get in a mood and this is the soundtrack for it. (It’s raining right now, maybe that’s it…)

In January of 1936, Paul Hindemith was in London preparing to perform his new viola concerto in the Queen’s Hall. But the day before the performance, Kinge George V died. The entire nation was in mourning. As a tribute to the late king, Hindemith composed this piece “Trauermusik” for Viola and String Orchestra in the space of six hours and performed it in a studio concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra the following day.

This piece is sublime, haunting, beautiful, and heart-wrenching. It is a piece that for me conjures up feelings of nostalgia, of sorrow, of pristine beauty. It is said that during the BBC performance, many of the musicians were openly weeping. The performance I am listening to by soloist Geraldine Walther and the San Francisco Symphony is one of the finer recordings I’ve heard of this piece. She really makes the viola cry and mourn with sorrow and anger.

To me there are three things that are amazing about this piece of music. One is that Hindemith accomplished this feat of composing the music quickly for a tragic occasion and performing it a day later. The next thing is that this piece has far outlived the occasion for which it is written – being one of the finest continuing pieces of standard repertoire for both the symphony orchestra and for the solo viola alike. Lastly, the sheer haunting, organic beauty of this piece itself is what amazes me the most.