Sibelius, Hindemith and Haydn, Oh My!

Last night again was a free concert night, this time at Garrison Theater on (or just outside of) Scripps College campus. The joint orchestra and choir of Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna and Pitzer Colleges plus a few ringers performed.
The program opened with the orchestra performing one of my favorites, Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia. A wonderful performance it was. By the time it was over, I was ready to protest against Czarist Russia. There is one major theme within this piece that I always find inspiring. When combined with Lloyd Stones’ lyrics this theme provides the most truly patriotic hymn I know. Even with the hymn’s theological elements, I’d trade Stone’s verses and Sibelius music in “This is my song” for our current national anthem in a second.
After Finlandia came Paul Hindemith’s Symphonie Mathis der Maler. Either one likes Hindemith or one doesn’t. I don’t. For me his work is emotionless dissonance. Even his grand fanfares tend to grate rather than inspire; his dirges do not depress. One can only stand so many fourths from the full orchestra at 100 dBA or from nearly silent violins played in the seventh (or was it the ninth, perhaps even the eleventh) position. I find Hindemith’s work much different from that of much of modern concert music. While much so called new music features dissonance it also occasionally inspires and more often depresses. It has emotion. But then Hindemith is dead and by definition, composers of new music are alive. Don’t get me wrong. I think the orchestra played Hindemith about as well as it can be played. Symphonie Mathis der Maler has a host of technical difficulties that they surmounted with considerable skill. I’m sure that those who enjoy Hindemith, enjoyed this part of the performance. On the way to our car, I asked Shirley what she thought of the Hindemith piece. She said, “I preferred the second movement.” “Why?” “It was the shortest,” she said.
The evening concluded with the choir joining the orchestra for Haydn’s Mass in B Flat, “Harmoniemesse.” This was Haydn’s 9837th or 9838th Mass. Not having my notes handy, I’m not sure of the exact number. Actually, I think it was more like his 14th but that alone is quite a large number of Masses for any one composer. In any case, it was his last. Four invited soloists contributed for an extremely enjoyable performance. One of the soloists, Charles Kamm is Assistant Professor of music at Scripts College and the conductor of the joint college choir program. He has an excellent tenor voice. I also enjoyed the work of Anne Harley, soprano, and the mezzo-soprano Adelaide Sinclair. But most of all I enjoyed Wayne Sheppard’s bass-baritone voice. When listening to such a Mass I wonder if the god to whom much of it is addressed might be a little slow or perhaps hard of hearing. Nothing goes unrepeated. Nothing goes. Nothing goes. Goes unrepeated. Goes unrepeated. Nothing goes unrepeated. Amen. Amen. Amen. I admit that I got lost trying to follow the Latin lyrics somewhere around the sixth repeat of “Kyrie eleison” but luckily, I was able to find my place again with the third repeat of “dona nobis pacem.”

4 thoughts on “Sibelius, Hindemith and Haydn, Oh My!”

  1. I used to feel the same way about a number of 20th century composers, like Hindemith or Shostakovich, who have neo-classical leanings and a penchant for dissonance. But they do grow on you. They aren’t the sort of avant-guard composers who seem to like dissonance and avoid any hint of melody at all costs. Rather, they push the limits of Romanticism, and although I still prefer Romantic composers like Sibelius, I find that Hindemith has grown on me, and the Mathis der Maler Symphony is in fact one of my favorites by him.

  2. 5 days later and Diana and I heard the Mathis de Maler also here at UVIC – I had not heard it for years – my recent encounters with Grunewald were a great help in hearing the music –

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