Conductor John Mauceri on Paul Hindemith

We’ve got a brilliant programme lined up for our performance on Friday 28 April, exploring a wide range of music that looks beyond the material world and strives for transcendence, conducted by John Mauceri and featuring star soprano Angel Blue. Here John introduces another work from the programme, and explains the surprising link between 20th-century German composer Paul Hindemith and St Francis of Assisi.

Paul Hindemith’s career was similar in his devotion and interest in adapting traditional German harmonic and contrapuntal devices to his own time. Like Schoenberg, Hindemith was denounced by the Nazis for his degenerate music and found artistic and financial stability by teaching in the American university system (Schoenberg in Los Angeles at USC and UCLA, and Hindemith at Yale University).

By the 1930s, Hindemith’s densely chromatic writing had crystallized into a unique voice that embraced the music of the Renaissance and Baroque whilst remaining distinctive and highly personal. His ballet Nobilissima Visione, which premiered at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1938, is a splendid example. Inspired by the frescoes depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi by Giotto, the saint’s life resonated with Hindemith not only because of his deep faith (Hindemith was a Lutheran) but also on a personal level.

Francis was born into an immensely rich family and, it is said, surprised his family and guests at a party by removing all his finery and walking out of the palazzo stark naked to live a simple life of poverty and chastity, befriending the animals and the poor. Hindemith’s music vocabulary had also shed its complexities, which is very much in evidence from the music of this suite the composer made from the full ballet score.

John Mauceri