I suspect that for Hindemith it meant an opportunity to occlude sentiment in the name of complexity of construction. Ludus tonalis was composed in America, in , and it may have been a response partly to Stravinsky, and perhaps also to early works by Babbitt and others. Hindemith was always capable of machine-gun fast marches, which have a sort of heavy wit the best here is Interludium no. But at other times, when he is working out a difficult fugue form, then the expression is properly in the form, as it was in The Art of Fugue.

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The viola introduces the main theme of the sonata in the key of F, over hushed piano accompaniment; the piano soon picks up this melody and the two instruments begin to develop a rhythmic figure that serves as a sort of coda to the theme. The piano then falls back to a subsidiary role with shimmering thirty-second note accompaniment, while the theme builds in the viola to a powerful, C-major cadenza.

The music picks up again quietly in E minor on the piano, as the viola plays a decorative rhythmic figure. The theme returns quickly and is passed between the instruments in a show of virtuosity for the soloist.

After a final, powerful statement, the music comes to rest in D; the piano attempts to stray to the minor mode with G-minor chords and F-naturals, but the viola insists on rising to an F-sharp. Alone now, the viola rises by whole steps to A-sharp, which is sustained enharmonically to B-flat as the beginning of the next movement.

Thema mit Variationen[ edit ] Ruhig und einfach, wie ein Volkslied Var. IV noch lebhafter The theme of the second movement is, as the marking suggests, a simple, folkish tune introduced in e-flat minor by the viola. Variation III and the third movement also make extensive use of this technique. Long lines in the viola contrast a moto perpetuo accompaniment of sixteenth and thirty-second notes in the piano.

Variation IV reaches a climax, with an ostinato accompaniment providing the grounding for the off-kilter rhythmic setting of the theme. Hindemith introduces a non-traditional key signature G-sharp and F-Sharp only that sets the music in a whole-tone mode; while the viola does occasionally play runs and phrases with half-steps, the piano persists in the figure G -F -E-D, over which the viola builds towards a climax in C-sharp minor, which is the first note of the third movement.

It functions both as an unusual set of variations, as its name suggests, and as a full-fledged Sonata-Allegro movement. As indicated by the continuation of variations numbers from the previous movement, the theme being varied is the one from that movement, which functions as the second theme in Sonata-Allegro terminology.

The first theme, introduced immediately at the beginning of the movement, is the very distinctive figure of a turn followed by an ascending scale. This figure is played and elaborated on by the soloist, with the pianist providing tonicizing changes of harmony at each instance of the turn figure.

The viola then transforms this figure into the beginning of a more lyrical theme, which brings the music down in tempo and dynamic level. The main theme returns momentarily, only to falter and give way to a new quiet theme which is a continuance of the rhythmic developments made by the first softer section.

The music comes completely to rest before the viola re-introduces the second movement theme in Variation 5. After some varied tonal wanderings, there is a strong buildup of dominant-preparation for A-flat major, in which key the piano restates the folk song theme while the viola plays the rhythmic coda-variant as a sort of counter-subject , creating a brilliant and beautiful synthesis.

This leads into a headlong acceleration, with running eighth notes in the piano set against off-beat tied notes in the viola. The soloist recaps the second movement theme in its original form, albeit at a breakneck speed, and this leads back into the opening theme of the movement, now in E major. This security quickly dies away in harmonic ambiguity, leaving two beats of non-tonic silence in which to begin the next variation. The fugal treatment of the theme in Variation VI fastidiously avoids functional tonal harmony that the ear can follow.

This section is a transposed and compressed repetition of the opening, which skips the development of the first theme into the impostor second theme, jumping straight into the latter. This section is also repeated almost note-for-note. Where before the instruments traded this figure back and forth, now the viola retains it exclusively as the piano builds to an identical climax and plays the second movement theme, accompanied as before by the coda-figure in the viola.

The instruments again accelerate into a statement of the second-movement theme in the viola, and into a seemingly-familiar arrival at the third-movement theme. Now, however, the piano abandons solid tonic triads in favor of a more leading dominant seventh chord, and both instruments rush upward to a climax followed by a downward harmonic minor scale in unison, which transforms into the ostinato from the end of the second movement, seemingly leading to a similar, crashing climax.

After the pounding whole-tone ostinato of the previous measures, the hushed repetition of the second movement theme in E-Flat Minor is supremely unexpected. The piano plays off-beat chords, then a counter-melody whose harmonies move in quick circle-of-fifths and enharmonic progression.

After a few small experiments with rhythmic displacement of the theme, the viola begins a figure of ascending triplets while the piano recapitulates exactly albeit in a different key and with textural changes the climax of the Theme section of Movement II. The final bars make use of this theme in a variety of rhythms, eventually distilling it down to one, powerful phrase. The piano emphasizes E-Flat Major but the flat sixth of the theme pulls towards minor, and its final statement, in unison between the viola and triple double octaves in the piano, is modally ambiguous, though unquestionably triumphant.


Hindemith, “Ludus Tonalis” (1942)

He, to a large extent, forged his own harmonic language — one based on fourths, rather than on the usual thirds. Actually, I can think of few composers who could conceive of tknalis work like this. Fast Fuga quinta in E: The opera was finally completed inbut early the previous tknalis Hindemith completed an orchestral Symphony Mathis der Maler using music also utilized in the opera. The opening three notes of the Praeludium begin the subject of the Fuga Prima, with a second transmuted into a seventh; and, in varying tonalie, each Interludium has cellular-melodic kinship with the fugue towards which it modulates.


Viola Sonata No. 1 (Hindemith)





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