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    I am looking at the Hindemith Sonata. I have the Salzedo edition, as carefully transmitted through Lucile Lawrence. In the opening of the second movement there is the rising phrase that reoccurs twice more throughout the movement. The fingering given actually came from Mr. Grandjany. After the first octave, the left hand and right hand play their pairs of fifths as written, then on the next beat, the second beat of the second measure, the right thumb slides from a-flat to g-flat and the left hand plays the remaining d-flat followed by b-flat and f with a 2-13 fingering. When I studied with Miss Chalifoux, she gave me another fingering, which I recall as playing as written until beat two of the second measure, and then playing L g-flat d-flat13- b-flat 2- d-flat1 and right f3- a-flat2- f c-flat13, with the left hand playing the final fifth by itself.

    I have come up with four or five more fingerings today, plus the possibility of playing it all as written. The problem is that possibility of a buzz or abruptly stopped a-flat on the second beat of the second measure and how to avoid it. It depends a lot also on your finger size and length. Someone with long, thin fingers may have no trouble avoiding touching the a-flat with the next notes placed.

    How smooth or choppy or bright should this arpeggio be? It is a double arpeggio, really. Should it be choppy all the way, or choppy, ending bright; smooth all the way, or smooth then bright; or choppy, smooth, bright; or choppy smooth? To me, the 24 13 fingerings have a choppy kind of articulation, playing single notes with each hand is smooth, and alternating hands 12 12 is bright. The bright notes at the top can leap out, not in scale with what leads up to it. Choppy might not project or sound clear, and smooth might not have a Hindemith essence to it.

    What are your thoughts? I think I will use this for a future article, so please let me know if I may quote your comments. I would like to hear from people who know the piece really well, and who studied it with Grandjany, Salzedo, Lawrence or Chalifoux; as well as those who know Hindemith’s music really well.

    The other part of the piece that seems to be controversial is the third movement with its changes of meter. It seems crystal clear to me, based on knowing Hindemith’s style and interests, that in accordance with early music, and that he is constantly changing meter even though it is not marked (!), that the beat remains the same throughout, therefore there is no great rallentando on the second page, as many people seem to play it. Salzedo may have taught it that way, but if I remember correctly, Miss Lawrence either was teaching it that way, or left it up to me, and I convinced her that the beat remains the same. How did Mr. Grandjany teach it? I was once told by a New York harpist that my performance of the Hindemith was the best she had heard, except for she felt Kathleen Bride played it the very best. How does she teach it? I no longer remember her performance in detail.


    Saul, I am looking at my music right now and I just play it exactly as written, with the 24 13 fingerings all the way up. To avoid stopping the A flat, I just pull my hand back so that my knuckles clear the strings, and I place at the exact moment when I play. This also mitigates that “choppy” sound. I studied this piece with Miss Chalifoux during my year in Cleveland, and also with Judy Loman after I got back to Toronto (1970’s). The movement is marked “Lebhaft” which means “lively” or “full of life”. I think of the ascending pattern as spritely and energetic, so I don’t want it too legato. Here’s a bit of heresy: if the knuckles are banging into the strings, and you want a smoother sound, just let them go straight so that they don’t hit. Curved fingers are fine in many instances, but there are always exceptions to every rule. Sometimes you have to pull the left shoulder back a little bit to give your left hand room to execute a maneuver in an upper register. I never thought of it before, but you could also try reversing the hands at the beginning of that upward arpeggio and see if that solves the problem of hitting the A.

    As for the last movement, I have it marked in my part that the beat remains the same; in other words, the previous quarter equals the new dotted quarter. Since both Judy and Alice were Salzedo’s students, they may have gotten that marking from him.


    I would love it if one of the German speakers here would put all of the German terms Hindemith used in this sonata up here with their English equivalents. That would be a big help to anyone wanting to play this wonderful work. We could all print that list out and stick it in the front of our copies. Thanks.

    J P

    alright folks get your scores out and follow along. Starting from Mvt 1

    mabig schnell/ moderately fast

    ruthig,ein wenig frei/quiet, rather free

    verklingen/perden dos..not quite sure on that one

    neu beginnen/beginning anew


    zuruckhalten und verklingen/ beats me 🙂

    Im HauptzeitmanB/tempo 1


    Im HauptzeitmanB/Tempo 1




    Now for the translation of the text in the 3rd Mvt…

    Oh my friends, when I am dead and gone, hang the little harp there behind the altar where on the wall the shimmering half light catches the funeral wreaths of many departed. Then the good sexton will show the harp to visitors, stirring it to sound as he touches the red riband that hangs from the harp and floats beneath the golden strings. “Often” he says in wonder, “at sunset the strings unbidden murmur like humming bees; the children, called hither from the churchyard, have heard it, and seen the wreaths aquiver”

    L.H. Chr. Holtry



    I do not have this music but the non music definitions for the remaining questions are:

    verklingen… die away or fade

    zuruckhalten… keep back or restrain

    In addition depending on the context Ruhiger could be “calmer”


    ein wenig means a little or a bit, which is a much smaller amount, I would say, than rather

    To get back to fingering, I think that a smooth fingering would make it possible through articulation to create the desired effect, but I haven’t been able to get it comfortable enough to find out for sure. If we want to do it more as written, then I think I would reverse hands, to end with the right hand on top, giving the left hand plenty of time to get to the bass muffle on the next beat. My fingers aren’t slender enough to assuredly avoid hitting the a string, and at the indicated tempo, I don’t think I could flatten them either, though I know the trick. With a little reflection, I don’t think the fact that the arpeggio is in parallel fifths necessarily indicates choppiness. The following phrase certainly has a somewhat smoother though angular outline, and the movement as a whole is very melodic, so smoothness might be quite valid. I found using a Bea Rose formula was the most convenient, smoothest, and the least jumpy: 14 3 2 1 left and 4 3 2 14 right after the first pair of fifths in each hand. But I’m not sure. It’s very hard to hear or imagine at the tempo the effect, and if it amounts to two audibly different qualities in the same phrase, which is perhaps not desirable. Well, anyway, this summer I will write my article about all the possible fingerings. Thanks for the input.


    I realize you are probably seeing the German double “s” that comes out as a sort of stylized capital B. My four years of German have finally come in handy! What looks like “mabig” is actually “massig”, with an umlaut over the “a”. It sounds like “messy” with a “g” at the end. Also, “Hauptzeitmass” has the same double-S. “Zuruckhalten” means “holding back” and “verklingen” means “ringing”. “Ruhiger” means “quieter” as in “calmer”, but not softer. “Perdendosi” is Italian for getting quieter (direct translation: getting lost).


    Ach! Es tut mir leid! “Verklingen” does mean “to die away”. “Klingen” means “to tinkle, sound, or clink”, and “klingeln” means “to ring”.


    No problem Elizabeth, I continually find it fascinating how one or two letters added to the same base word,


    Somehow, I don’t think he meant “to tinkle away”! I think that “ruhig” has a root meaning in “peace” which adds something extra to “quiet”. Who would have ever thunk we’d need so much Deutsch just for this one piece.

    Next question: How much of Harald Genzmer’s music do you think is derived from Hindemith, and is it as good?

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