The general release of Walt Disney’s classic animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
must have been a rare and welcome moment of relief in 1938, the year that saw Hitler march into Austria and the notorious Kristallnacht. It was from this ghastly situation that composer Paul Hindemith (whose wife was partly of Jewish ancestry) had to flee, initially to Switzerland, and ultimately to the USA and a teaching post at Yale University in 1940. He had been denounced by Goebbels as an ‘atonal noisemaker’, and his music was banned by the Nazis who included it in the 1938 Entartete Musik
(‘degenerate music’) exhibition in Düsseldorf. Little surprise, therefore, that one finds dark clouds in his sonata for bassoon and piano, composed in that year. Hindemith was never a heart-on-sleeve composer, but the juxtaposition of ethereal beauty and menacing harmonies must surely have emerged from deep-rooted anger and sadness at that time. Much of this is conveyed in his expressive piano-writing—the first section of the second movement is a good example. This leads abruptly into a march with some passages seeming to conjure up the horrific images of goose-stepping. There are of course lighter moments as well, and the angry energy of the march gradually subsides into a concluding pastorale, where the composer’s markings ‘Ruhig’ (‘calm’) and ‘Beschluß’ (‘decision’) are relevant in the same restrained way as the music itself with its mood of empty resignation, ending on a lonely minor chord.
from notes by Laurence Perkins © 2021