Composers Datebook®

Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis

Paul Hindemith (1895 - 1963) – Symphonic Metamorphosis (San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt, cond.) London/Decca 421523)

Composer's Datebook - 20220120


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January 20, 2022


In 1940, the choreographer Léonide Massine, approached composer Paul Hindemith, with the idea of having him arrange pieces by the 19th century Romantic composer Carl Maria von Weber into a ballet score.  At first Hindemith was intrigued, but Massine wanted straight arrangements and Hindemith wanted to write something original in the spirit of Weber, so the ballet idea was scrapped.

Oh well, what Hindemith finally did come up with turned out to be one of his most successful and popular orchestral works, a piece entitled “Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber,” which received its premiere performance on today’s date in 1944 at a New York Philharmonic concert conducted by Artur Rodzinski.

Now, Hindemith had a reputation for being serious and rather “Germanic,” so The New York Times critic had a little fun with that image of the composer, writing:

“Sometimes [Hindemith’s] counterpoint has been as busy and energetic as the works of an automobile – and as meaningless. Sometimes it has been thick and overstuffed in its style. This metamorphosis employs counterpoint as a matter only incidental to the gay development of ideas, and there is sunshine in every nook and cranny of the transparent, debonair score.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Paul Hindemith (1895 - 1963) – Symphonic Metamorphosis (San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt, cond.) London/Decca 421523)

On This Day


  • 1586 - German composer Johann Hermann Schein, in Grünhain;

  • 1855 - French composer Ernest Chausson, in Paris;

  • 1869 - Russian composer and violinist Julius Conus, in Moscow (Gregorian date: Feb. 1);

  • 1894 - American composer Walter Piston, in Rockland, Maine;


  • 1952 - American composer and music educator Arthur Farwell, age 79, in New York;


  • 1649 - Cesti: opera "Orontea," in Venice;

  • 1726 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 13 ("Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen") performed on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's third annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1725/27);

  • 1856 - Brahms: Two Sarabandes (in a & b) and Gavotte in A (arranged from Gluck's "Paris ed Elena"), for piano, in Vienna;

  • 1880 - Brahms: Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79, for piano, in Krefeld;

  • 1892 - Catalani: opera "La Wally," in Milan;

  • 1933 - Gershwin: musical "Pardon My English," at the Majestic Theater in New York City; This show included the classic Gershwin songs "Isn't It a Pity," "My Cousin in Milwaukee," and "So What?";

  • 1939 - Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2 ([Concord, Mass. 1840-1860), by John Kirkpatrick, in New York City;

  • 1941 - Bartók: String Quartet No. 6, in New York City, by the Kolisch Quartet;

  • 1944 - Hindemith: "Symphonic Metamorphosis on a Theme of Weber," by the New York Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinski conducting;

  • 1956 - Hanson: “Elegy” (to the Memory of Serge Kousseviztky), by the Boston Symphony, Charles Munch conducting;

  • 1961 - Poulenc: "Gloria," in Boston;

  • 1977 - Tobias Picker: Sextet No. 3, at Alice Tully Hall in New York City, by Speculum Musicae;

  • 1979 - Rochberg: String Quartets Nos. 4-6 ("The Concord Quartets"), at the University of Pennsylvania, by the Concord Quartet.


  • 1626 - Payments to the royal musician, lutenist and composer John Dowland cease, and his son, Robert Dowland, succeeds him in his post at court; This date is often cited as the day the famous elder Dowland died, but his burial at St Ann Blackfriars was not recorded until a month later, on February, 20, 1626, which suggests the elder Dowland had perhaps been too ill to continue in service as of January 20-21 when the records state the transfer took place, and that the elder Dowland might have in fact died sometime in mid-February;