December 11, 2017
Sonata for Trumpet and Piano Analysis
you think of all the famous composers that made a name for themselves during
the early half of the 20th century, a German composer by the name of
Paul Hindemith stands among them. Before
he fled Germany to the United States, the Nazi Party considered his work
“degenerate music” because of his political stance and experiences, thus his
work was blacklisted from the public. Before moving to the U.S. during his
exile in Switzerland; Hindemith wrote the Sonata
for Trumpet and Piano. This Sonata
became part of a series of ten sonatas for wind instruments with piano and
represents one of the century’s most significant trumpet repertoire
compositions. In a program note by
Richard Freed, an American music critic, he states… “This particular work took
on a depth quite beyond its companion sonatas; it became one of Hindemith’s
most personal expressions.”1
Interesting features of this piece include the opening motif using quartal
intervals that is dispersed throughout the 1st movement and the
bigger structure of specific key areas that create its unique form.
definitely had sonata form in his thoughts when writing this piece. Even on the largest scale, spanning all 3 movements
he had sonata form applicable by having the 1st movement – fast, the
2nd movement – slow, and the 3rd movement – fast again
(i.e. fast-slow-fast) keeping the typical ABA structure. Diving deeper into the form of the 1st
movement, Hindemith’s trumpet sonata is not a typical sonata form. Looking at Figure 1 below provided by Gimar
Cavalcante (A Ball State University Grad Student), we can see that structure is
not just a sonata
form but that of a rondo form
The use of this sonata-rondo form in the piece is evident by the
changing pitch center and the new material that comes with it to show the next
sections. There are many aspects that
create the sonata form. For instance, A section is the exposition while A’
section is considered the development and knowing that the piece starts and ends
on B-flat Major, the A” section is the recapitulation. At the same time, the rondo form is overlapping
the sonata form, where the B and C sections can act as transitional material
for the sonata form but in a rondo these sections act as new material not
related to the A sections. The reasoning
that the rondo form is more present than its sonata form counterpart is that
the main theme the trumpet plays in the first 4 measures of the piece never gets
developed (Figure 2-A). It appears in
different registers and in three different keys but it is never expanded upon
in favor of adding more material. You can see the start of each theme in
different keys in Figures 2-B and 2-C
below (Note: these themes are transposed for a
B-flat trumpet). This so called rondo theme
be heard many times between the trumpet and the piano in the 1st
most modern western music is largely based on harmonies of major and minor
thirds, Hindemith has constructed large parts of his work by the means of
fourth and fifth intervals. Thus, “quartal
harmony is the building of harmonic structures with a distinct preference for
the intervals of the perfect fourth, the augmented fourth and the diminished
fourth.”3 Many 20th and century composers
like Debussy, Bernstein, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky use these harmonic methods
as a result of reevaluating tonality. The
melody of the rondo theme in this piece reveils those harmonies and you imidiately
hear the inversion of the quartal intervals of G-C-F in the first three notes
of trumpet. That quartal relationship is
evident in the piano part as well. For
example at the start of the B section in measure 30, the piano is the only one
playing in a 12/8 meter (Figure 3).
Looking at each note relationship that is not stepwise motion (i.e.
leaping intervals) you can see that every interval is a fourth apart. I believe he uses these intervals because he
is trying to project feelings of strengh and harmonies of fourths and fifths
add to his vision. Hindemith wrote… “The
strongest and most unique harmonic interval after the octave is the fifth, the
prettiest nevertheless is the third by right of the chordal effects of its
combination tones.”3 This is obvious
in his beginning stylistic cue of the piece, ‘Mit Kraft’ meaning ‘With Power’.
on from the formal and melodic structure, the rythmic structure of the piece is
another major factor in this juggernaut of a piece. Throughout the movement the are many moments
where the trumpet and piano don’t seem to be lining up right. That is because polyrythm plays a big factor
in the texture of the piece. Highlighted
in Figure 4 you can see that the trumpet plays in 12/8 while simutaniously the piano
is playing 4/4 at measure 92.
Often in 20th century music, the harmonic
aspects of an arrangement like key signitures and progressions are
intentionally forgotten. That being
said, it is unmistakable to see there is not a deliberate key shown in the
staff. Instead, Hindemith uses
accidentals to guide us through the different pitch centers displayed back in
Figure 1. We can assume since this is
still a sonata form and the beginning and the end of the movement are in the
same pitch center, it is safe to say that the main key of the piece is B-flat
major. That is typical of a sonata form
because the exposition starts off on the tonic, the development usually moves to
the dominant to expand on the main theme (but in this scenario it moves to the
third), and then comes back to the tonic key to establish the
recapitulation. Also, harmony in the
piece can be a bit ambiguous by leaving out either the third or fifth of a
chord and spelling the same chords enharmonically in adjacent measures.
Stylistically, this movement is pretty straight forward. As I mentioned before, the main stylistic cue
is ‘Mit Kraft’ meaning ‘With Power’.
Moving along we see the cue changes when we get to the A’ section at
measure 67 to ‘Breit’, a german word translated to ‘Wide’. A couple reasons why this change
happens. Primarily, this is the first
time we see the main theme since measure 24; although in a new key, the main theme
feels like it needed to evolve. The
character of the section being Wide instead of With Power references the
players need to spacially fill the sound up and to leave know gaps in the sound
during this section. Second, this is the
point of the piece where the A section comes back in the rondo form making it a
A prime (A’) and at the same time is the development in sonata form. The final stylistic cue for the rest of the
piece is called ‘Wie Vorcher’ meaning ‘As previously’ marked at measure 85 (beginning
of C’ section). This cue basically
refers back to the style ‘With Power’ that started the piece. You can see these cues in Figure 5 below. During
these different stylistic sections one can obviously see that Briet uses a
fortissimo for the etire A’ section but at the very start of the piece you can
see that both instruments play fortissimo at the downbeat of the first measure to
imply the power of ‘Mit Kraft’.
It will be 55 years now since Hindemith’s death in
1963 and he has brought us this fantastic musical accomplishment. He once said that “Music, as long as it
exists, will always take its departure from the major triad and return to
it. The musician cannot escape it any
more than the painter his primary colors or the architect his three dimensions”.4
I believe this sonata goes hand in hand with this quote by the implemetation
of quartal & quintal intervals and use of an unusual progression of pitch
centers to expand from the major triad. I
have personally praticed this piece for many months and performed it on more
than one occasion. I definitely see this
as one of the top pieces of trumpet repertoire and would recommend to any
intermediate to advanced trumpeter to add this to their collection of
performances. The brooding and restless
nature of the piece, scattered with dramatic piano outbursts really show the
emotion of Hindemith during the end of the war when he was fleeing
Germany. Although I only went in depth
on the 1st movement; in order to get the full experience of
Hindemith’s personal feelings I strongly suggest listening to all three
movements. In summary the first movement
represents the pride of the german people just before the march of the Nazi
Regime, the second movement is supposed to embody the innocence and ignorance
of the people, and the third/final movement is titled with Alle Menschen Mussen
Sterben (“All Men Must Die”) capturing the grieving aspect of the dead based on
a chorale by Bach. Overall, Paul
Hindemith’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano was his most prestigous piece out of
the series of 10 wind insturment sonatas and became one of his most personal
G. Paul Hindemith’s Sonata For Trumpet
And Piano: An Aesthetic Analysis of the First Movement. Academia.edu –
Share research. Accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.academia.edu/28579807/Paul_Hindemiths_Sonata_For_Trumpet_And_Piano_An_Aesthetic_Analysis_of_the_First_Movement.
Richard. Sonata for Trumpet and Piano. The
Kennedy Center. Accessed December 11, 2017. http://www.kennedy-center.org/artist/composition/2994.
Meaning of the Hindemith – View topic: Trumpet
Herald forum. TrumpetHerald.com. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Hindemith Sonata for Trumpet and Piano. Accessed Decmeber 11, 2017. http://pws.npru.ac.th/arnon/data/files/Hindemith.pdf
Paul Hindemith Quotes and Saying. Inspiring Quotes World Famous Quotes. 2016.
Accessed December 11, 2017.
Quartal and quintal harmony.
Wikipedia. December 02, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Marybeth. Defiance through Music: the
First Movement of Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano. Scribd.
April 2, 2011. Accessed December 11, 2017.
1 Marybeth Weiss, Defiance
through Music: The First Movement of Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Trumpet and
Piano (2011), 1.
2 Gilmar Cavalcante da Silva, Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Trumpet and
Piano: An Aesthetic Analysis of the First Movement (2015), 5.
Quartal and Quintal Harmony (2017)
Quotes, Paul Hindemith Quotes and Sayings