Comments on Hindemith's Sonate,

Second Movement, Marsch

By Terry B. Ewell

Hindemith provides a transitional device between the Langsam and the Marsch. The speed of eighth-note triplets (150) in the last measure of the Langsam are almost exactly the speed of the quarter notes (144) in the Marsch. My suggestion is to play the eighth note triplets exactly the same speed as the Marsch tempo. This allows for an easy start to the Marsch.

[piano music—introduction to the Marsch]

[music—introduction to the Marsch]

I approach the first portion of the Marsch with rhythmic precision and unvarying tempo. I suggest playing this portion in four, with the quarter note receiving the beat. You should take great care to play accurately all of the rhythms. For instance, I instruct my students to use the full fingerings in the fourth beat of the second measure and not employ the trill fingerings for D4-E4. Students who use the trill fingerings not only tend to rush these notes, but also do not produce clear resonance on all of the notes.

The passage that is four measures before number 8 deserves special attention. Please carefully study the subdivisions given in the example. Notice that the switch to triplets is made as quickly as possible (on the quarter note) to aid the accuracy of the following triplet eighth notes. Too often these triplet notes are performed as sixteenth notes. Students should practice this example slowly by tonguing all of the subdivisions. Make certain that the triplet eighth notes are exactly one third of the beat. Often the first note in the triplet is too long. The second note of the triplet must come early enough.

[Example Vincent practicing]

Here is the section performed up to speed.


I prefer to change the character of the music one measure before number 8. Up to this point in the movement, I perform the articulated notes with some separation. Here, however, on the forte I play with longer value notes, much like someone would sing a faster patriotic song or national anthem: with enthusiasm and a full voice. Notice that the volume of the bassoon and piano parts continue at forte up to fifth measure, the third beat.

Hindemith’s composition is well-crafted and provides evidence of careful planning with the melodic and harmonic materials. Illustrating this is the fifth measure of number 8, which contains adjacent Db3 and C#3 notes. On first sight this seems to be haphazard and arbitrary. For some 20th century composers the choice of accidentals is arbitrary, however, that is not the case for Paul Hindemith. We learn from his writings that harmonies were carefully chosen to express tension and release. His work, The Craft of Musical Composition demonstrates the importance of spelling with accidentals. For instance, in volume 1, page 127, example g notice the adjacent chords have a tied over common tone, but the G# is given in the first chord and an Ab in second. The change in spelling alerts the performer to a change in harmony.

Here in the Hindemith Sonate we have a similar situation.  The change of accidentals here is highly significant and signals not only a new harmony but also new melodic material. The Db3 is the end of the forte section featuring what I have called a “national anthem.”

The C#3 indicates something new and immediately should be played quietly to start the counterpoint between the bassoon and piano. Both the bassoon and piano must change to the quiet dynamic on the fourth beat of that measure.

In contrast to the Marsch, the Trio is best played with some rubato. Play the Trio in two, that is, with the half note receiving the beat. Do not play this rhythmically precise, but allow for slightly Romantic gestures. Move the speed of notes forward to climaxes and relax the phrases slightly after the climax is reached. For instance, the third measure of the Trio is where I would push the phrase forward until the climax on C4. Then allow the tempo to relax and recover a bit.

[Example Vincent playing alone. m. 127-8]

There are other places in the Trio where rubato is appropriate as well.

Now, one key to effectively perform the Marsch is to distinguish between the Marsch musical materials and the Trio musical materials. Play the Marsch always in four and with rhythmic precision. For instance, the Marsch returns at number 11 in the piano. Later in the section the Trio returns eight after number 12. Here the eighth notes in the bassoon should accommodate the phrasing of the piano. Both instruments should play in two and allow for rubato.

The greatest rubato or freedom of tempo in the movement is at zögern, which is translated as “hesitate” or “hold back.”

Now I end this video with a few performance details for the bassoonist. Five measures after number 12 use one of these fingerings for the trill. Please also note that this trill is not forte, that is a mistake. Play this mp and then follow the crescendo mark. The downward slur in the next measure from G4-C4 is best accomplished without flicking the C4.

I hope that you have viewed the other two videos on the Hindemith Sonate by now. Please proceed to the last video in the series in which we examine the Beschluβ or conclusion to the composition.



Copyright (c) 2016 by Terry B. Ewell. All Rights Reserved.