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"Dann Sang er": Das Marienleben from Rilke to Hindemith

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On the autograph score of "Das Marienleben" op. 27 (1923), Paul Hinde-mith scrawled the concluding line of "Joseph's Suspicion," the fifth of Rainer Maria Rilks "Marienleben" poems: "Und dann sang er Lob!" ("And then he sang praise!"). An expression of Hindemith's relief upon completing the difficult task of setting Rilke's thirteen-poem cycle to music, his notation also points to a shared sensitivity between the two artists to the reciprocal relationship of music and spirituality. Yet, if the words of the aristocratically minded aesthete Rilke, written in the dying light of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, hover somewhere between Symbolism and Expressionism, then the young Hindemith's Weimar composition balances precariously on the taut line between Expressionism and Neoclassicism, while his post-WWII revisions reflect the more stable conservatism of his later years. An investigation of the significance of "Das Marienleben" as a focal point in the aesthetic development of both Rilke and Hindemith seeks to explain the attraction Rilke's poetry, traditionally viewed as apolitical or even reactionary, held for Hindemith, an artist on the cutting edge of Berlin's musical scene. The discussion focuses on each artist's evocation of spirituality and appeal for divine intercession in the troubled times surrounding the world wars, especially as embodied in the figures of Mary and the angels.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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