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At-A-Glance

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Composed: 1921

Length: c. 4 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes (1 & 2 = piccolo), 2 oboes, 3 clarinets (1 & 2 = E-flat clarinet), 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, xylophone), and strings

About this Piece

Though after World War II Paul Hindemith would become something of a grand old fogey of classical music, in the 1920s he was a prodigiously creative radical. Though already a professional violinist and violist in orchestras, quartets, and as soloist, he switched his main energies to composition. (He did continue to perform as an instrumentalist, particularly in his own solo viola music; he also played the solo violin part in the German premiere of Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat in 1923.) He composed in almost every genre, from one-act operas and film scores to chamber music and solo piano pieces, working with the leading German artists and writers of the time.

He also wrote and arranged (and parodied) contemporary dance music, treating foxtrots and shimmies as Baroque compos- ers did allemandes and sarabandes. Ragtime provided a dance craze of the ‘20s, and during Eastertime in 1921, Hindemith took the subject of Bach’s C-minor fugue in Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier and worked it up into a sassy orchestral rag. When it produced some not-unexpected critical tut-tutting, the young composer had a ready response: “Do you think that Bach is turning in his grave? He wouldn’t think of it! If Bach were alive today, he might perhaps have in- vented the shimmy, or at least incorporated it into respectable music.”

— John Henken