Movement 1: Marsch
Movement 2: Shimmy
Movement 3: Nachtstück
Movement 4: Boston
Movement 5: Ragtime
In March 1920 Hindemith offered Strecker some ‘foxtrots, Bostons, ragtimes, and other junk of that kind. When I run out of any decent ideas I always write such things. I am very good at it … ’ He actually sent Strecker some of these pieces, but soon afterwards they were returned as Hindemith said he needed them for a dance at which he was to play. Whether the occasion of the dance was the reason for their return, or whether (as Strecker had expressed some interest in them) Hindemith shied at the idea of such pieces being published with his name at the time when he was seeking to establish himself as a serious composer, it was clear that he was au fait with the latest popular music.
Among the conductors under whom Hindemith led the opera orchestra in Frankfurt was Fritz Busch. Although Hindemith was writing music regularly, he was diffident about showing his compositions to others. Busch had learned of Hindemith’s work and asked to see some scores. With his theatrical background, Hindemith had written three one-act expressionist operas. Busch decided to produce two of them in Stuttgart. The third, Sancta Susanna (given in Frankfurt) caused a sensation—as much for the story (about a sex-obsessed nun) as for the music. The production of these operas in 1921/2 was the breakthrough Hindemith had been looking for as a composer. He resigned from the Frankfurt Opera and concentrated, with financial help from Schott, almost exclusively on composition, though he continued as a professional chamber musician for almost the rest of the decade.
1922 was indeed the turning-point for the twenty-six-year-old. In September of that year he wrote to Emmy Ronnefeldt on his work during the previous months: ‘A lot of orchestral playing, a great many concerts, a lot of touring. And an awful amount of composing … ’ He then listed twelve scores written that year, including the Suite ‘1922’, Op 26 for solo piano. If two years earlier Hindemith had shied away from having his popular music published, after the impact of Sancta Susanna he had no qualms about writing concert music in these forms. The composer felt the personal importance of that period, as he incorporated the year in the title. The Suite is in five movements, two of which—the opening ‘Marsch’ and the central ‘Nachtstück’—in their cavalier use of traditional harmony and Satie-like instructions (the march to be played ‘rather clumsily’) more than suggest a Dada-esque approach to music, reinforcing some of Willy Strecker’s misgivings. The remaining three movements are stylizations of popular music of the day: ‘Shimmy’ (No 2), an American dance not unlike the foxtrot; ‘Boston’ (No 4)—another American dance, a slow waltz—and the final ‘Ragtime’, the most jazzy of the Suite’s movements, which also has iconoclastic instructions for the player: ‘Play this piece very wildly, but keep it in strict rhythm, like a machine. Regard the piano here as an interesting percussion instrument … ’ Hindemith’s emerging individuality can nonetheless be discerned in Suite ‘1922’.
Hindemith himself designed the title page.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1995