Composers Datebook®

"The Hindemith Case"

Composer's Datebook - May 28, 2023


On today's date in 1938, Matthias the Painter, an opera by the German composer Paul Hindemith, had its premiere performance in Zurich, Switzerland.

This work had been scheduled to be premiered in 1934 at the Berlin Opera by the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, but the newly-installed Nazi regime canceled the performance.

In protest, Furtwangler performed a concert suite from Hindemith's opera at a Berlin Philharmonic concert, resulting in a loud pro-Hindemith demonstration on the part of the audience. The Nazi press responded with attacks on both Hindemith and Furtwangler. By the end of 1934 it was clear to all in Germany that the Nazis would brook no opposition when it came to cultural matters.

So how had the quintessentially German Hindemith offended the new regime? In 1929 Hitler had attended the premiere of another Hindemith opera, titled News of the Day, and hated it – labeling it “degenerate.” Furthermore, Hindemith's wife and many of his closest musician friends were Jewish. Hindemith became persona non grata in Nazi Germany, and, shortly after the Zurich premiere of his new opera, he and his wife emigrated to the U.S., where he taught at Tanglewood and Yale, becoming an American citizen in 1946.

Music Played in Today's Program

Paul Hindemith (1895 - 1963) Mathis der Maler Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orchestra; Rafael Kubelik, conductor. EMI 55237

On This Day


  • 1737 - American bandmaster and music publisher Josiah Flagg, in Woburn, Mass.; He organized the first militia band in Boston, published music engraved by Paul Revere, and in 1773 organized a "Grand Concert" at Boston's Faneuil Hall involving 50 players, one of the first public concerts in America which presented European music;

  • 1779 - Irish singer, poet and composer Thomas Moore, in Dublin;

  • 1841 - Italian composer, conductor and pianist Giovanni Sgambati, in Rome;

  • 1883 - English composer Sir George Dyson, in Halifax (Yorkshire);

  • 1913 - Soviet composer Tikhon Khrennikov, in Elets (Gregorian date: June 10);

  • 1923 - Hungarian composer György Ligeti, in Dicsöszentmartin (now Tirnaveni), Transylvania;


  • 1787 - Leopold Mozart, composer, and Wolfgang's father, age 67, in Salzburg;

  • 1805 - Italian composer Luigi Boccherini, age 62, in Madrid;

  • 1836 - Czech composer Anton Reicha, age 66, in Paris;


  • 1608 - Monteverdi: opera "Ariana," for a ducal wedding in Mantua; This opera now lost;

  • 1904 - Puccini: “Madama Butterfly” (successful revised version), in Brescia; the opera’s original version, premiered on Feb. 17 at La Scala in Milan, was hissed;

  • 1922 - Zemlinsky: opera "Der Zwerg" (The Dwarf), at the Cologne Opera;

  • 1938 - Hindemith: opera "Mathis der Mahler," in Zurich at the Stadttheater, conducted by Robert Denzler;

  • 1966 - Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 11, in Leningrad, by the Beethoven Quartet;

  • 1993 - Stockhausen: opera "Dienstag aus Licht" (Tuesday from Light) at the Leipzig Opera;

  • 1993 - Michael Torke: "Proverbs" for female voice and ensemble, at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, by the Present Music ensemble, conducted by the composer;


  • 1904 - Puccini: "Madama Butterfly" (successful revised version), in Brescia; the opera's original version, premiered on Feb. 17 at La Scala in Milan, was hissed.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®