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Bart Meijer

Re: Yippee! (Be careful with what you wish for!)

October 21, 2010 at 7:33 PM

Hindemith's Symphony Mathis der Maler -- I should have known, because it is mentioned in several threads. One thread has the third movement a dark piece, the other finds it difficult, especially for the first violins. It is both. In places, such as the page of fast scales, all I can do is to follow the notes with my eyes while the orchestra thunders past. It's slowly getting better. That's just as well, because the concerts are on October 30 and November 3. My amazing stand partner misses about three notes in the whole piece.

Enough complaining. We are going to play very interesting music. An early version of the first movement of Mahler's Second Symphony, called Totenfeier, that was published separately before the whole of the symphony was published; Mahler's Rückertlieder (with wonderful singer Eline Harbers), and the Symphony Mathis der Maler, by Hindemith. The symphony is based on HIndemith's opera with the same title, about the life of Matthias Grünewald, a painter who lived in the time of the German peasant wars. The opera tells the story of Matthias' going into war as a soldier, and then renouncing war again, in order to serve by his true calling, the art of painting. Each movement of the symphony is based on a painting in Matthias' great work, the Isenheim altar piece: Angelic Concert, Entombment, and Temptation of Saint Anthony.

How did St Anthony get into it? The church at Isenheim belonged to the order of St Anthony, whose members tended to the sick. The poor of the region around Isenheim suffered from ergot poisoning, which they called St Anthony's Fire. It made one's arteries constrict and caused severe pain, sometimes even loss of limbs. Patients with the disease are portrayed in the Temptation picture. Knowing this, I feel that nothing but a dark and difficult piece would do this theme justice, and I want the performance to be as good as possible.

So, back to practice. I'd be grateful for any tips on how to play it!


From Christina C.
Posted on October 25, 2010 at 2:31 PM

been there done that! My orchestra did Hindemith Metamorphosen a few years ago. I especially remember the last movement as being a beast.  We read it pretty close to tempo at the first rehearsal (first time seeing the music for most of us) and my hot-shot stand-partner probably missed 3 notes... maybe 4.  Just do it slowly when you're on your own ..that's especially hard when you usually have to play it faster at rehearsal every week, but the benefits of slow-practice are very profound, plus if you can't play it slow, you can't play it fast.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on October 26, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Christina, thank you. Slow practice, and breaking fast passages up into manageable chunks for practice, is what I do. But it's still difficult!

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