Concerto for Winds, Harp and Orchestra

Paul Hindemith (1895–1963) was one of the most significant German composers of the 20th century. His highly varied path in life took him from Germany to the United States and, from there, to Switzerland, as he achieved success as a teacher, an author of books on music theory, a violinist and violist and as a globetrotting conductor. He wrote his three-movement Concerto for woodwinds, harp and orchestra in 1949, after receiving a commission from Columbia University. While the woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon) and the harp take the lead as soloists, the brass players (two horns, two trumpets and one trombone) perform as part of the orchestra. Prevailing throughout this cheerful and brilliantly structured work is the style so typical of Hindemith: an intricate network of parts, each living an independent life and answering and counterpointing each other. For the witty rondo finale, the composer has an amusing joke in store for us: embedded in the fabric of the music, but still quite detectably, the clarinet repeatedly plays – as a kind of theme melody – the first eight measures from a well-known opera excerpt, which is then even continued at the end of the movement.