And then another press release, this time for a recording of all Hindemith’s violin sonatas (plus a work for viola d’amore), by violinist Roman Mints. From which we learn that Hindemith is contemporary music:
Another day, more things in our classical music world that make me shake my head and smile.
First a Boston Symphony press release, announcing what they’ll do next season. Bright, shiny language! They’ll offer “fresh, innovative projects alongside many of the most popular and impressive works ever composed for orchestra.”
Which I guess sounds better than “fresh, innovative projects alongside the same stuff we always do.”
Oddity alert: I’m quoting the press release I got by email. It’s different from the version on their website, which doesn’t include the phrase I’m teasing them about.
A longtime champion of of contemporary composers, Roman Mints’s deep appreciation for the works of Paul Hindemith began when he was a young violinist, studying in Moscow in the 1980s: “This music, written not just before I was born but closer to the time of my grandparents’ birth, felt completely contemporary, and daringly advanced in its sound … From the time I put Sonata in D on the stand, I was gripped by the first subject, constructed from seconds and sevenths, marked to be played with stony defiance. I was never the same again and Hindemith became my window into contemporary music.”
And OK, Mints was 13 at the time and living in the Soviet Union, where (by Communist edict) most new classical music was pretty conservative.
But still! Hindemith got famous in the 1920s, almost 100 years ago, and died in 1963. Contemporary music?
Only in a field so anchored in the past could something that old be contemporary. In many ways, we haven’t caught up with the 20th century yet. So pieces 100 years old can seem new.
And, since we’re anchored in the past, we do the same pieces over and over. Which maybe explains why the Boston Symphony tries to put a fresh spin on that, finding a bright and hopeful way to say that — at the core of their season — they still do the same old stuff.
To their credit, they and other orchestras really are doing more new things than they used to. But the phrase I quoted still is spin.
When I first wrote this post, I said that Mints is a violist, and said the recording was of Hindemith’s viola music. This was an intensely silly mistake. I apologize for it, and I’ve corrected the post.