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Hindemith — Yes, Hindemith — for Today

October 2, 2018

Is there any doubt that music is indeed a wonderful gift from the God who loves us?

Eastman School of Music professors Mark Kellog and Priscilla Yuen, who teach low brass and piano respectively, were in our town this weekend.

Saturday evening they were part of the Fine Arts Series at Belleville (IL) Union United Methodist Church, and it was a complete delight. Sunday morning they both helped lead worship…again, all I can is WOW.

The final piece on Saturday was Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Alto Horn and Piano. A euphonium was substituted, to great effect, for an alto horn.

Unchanged apart from being an English translation was a poem Hindemith wrote to be included in every performance. The first stanza is assigned to the soloist, the second to the accompaniment. The backstory, powerful though it is, goes beyond the scope of my humble blog today.

I want to simply share Hindemith’s words as translated by Jennifer Hemken —

Is not the sounding of the horn to our busy souls

Like the scent of blossoms wilted long ago

Or the discolored folds of musty tapestry

Or crumbling pages of ancient yellowed tomes?

Like a sonorous visit from those ages

Which counted speed by straining horses’ gallop

Not by a current of electricity through cables

When to live and learn one ranged the countryside

Not buried in closely printed pages.

The cornucopia’s gift calls forth in us a pallid yearning, melancholy longing. 

      The old is not good, just because it has passed

      Nor is the new great, because we live in it

      No one experiences happiness beyond one’s comprehension.

      Your task it is, amid confusion, rush, and noise

      To grasp the lasting, calm, and meaningful

      And finding it anew, to hold and treasure it.

 

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