24 August 2017

The Hindemith Party

Hindemith went looking for two other suitable but contrasting texts to act as companions for Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen to form a full-evening triple-bill. Although Kokoschka had written other plays, Hindemith decided on a short, amusing — and appropriately vulgar — one by Franz Blei. Hindemith’s choice of text was by no means arbitrary, since he had decided that the three operas would deal, in varying ways, with the themes of violent sexuality and society’s repression — even punishment — of it. Das Nusch-Nuschi, styled a ‘play for Burmese marionettes’, is a satirical affair in which a philanderer is castrated for his sins by the creature of the title, whose nonsense name literally translates as ‘Nuts-Nuts’ (in the colloquial sense of nuts for testicles) [...]
Early in 1921 Hindemith finished the third of his short one act operas, Sancta Susanna. This torrid work to a libretto by August Stramm concerned the nocturnal sexual fantasies of a novice nun. It was theatrical dynamite even by todays standards, and Fritz Busch flatly refused to première it in Stuttgart. Busch had no qualms about presenting both Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen and Das Nusch-Nuschi and these proved to be quite scandalous enough. During the latter works castration scene, Hindemith had quoted from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; composer, conductor and orchestra were taken aback at the intensity of reaction the incident generated from Wagnerians in the audience, but the publicity did Hindemith no harm whatsoever.

I’ve started reading (at long last) the Guy Rickards Hindemith, Hartmann & Henze Phaidon book. I feel reasonably certain that I fetched the book in, on Leo Schulte’s recommendation . . . and I bought it in October of 2014. It seems to have gone to earth at the bottom of a sack, which then filled up with other articles. No surprise, I discovered it only when I went through that sack’s contents yesterday.

In the time since buying the book, I have actually (at even longer last) listened to Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen and Das Nusch-Nuschi. So I have an even better frame of musical reference for this start to the book. In turn, the narrative is giving me improved context for the early string quartets and the Clarinet Quintet.

It’s like falling in love with Hindemith’s music all over again.

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