The first composer featured in this concert by the RSO chamber players at Government House tonight at 8 p.m. (with a second performance tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m.), needs no introduction.

German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), though, is considerably less well-known. As a child, Hindemith studied violin and composition at a conservatory in Frankfurt — the latter under Arnold Mendelssohn.

Stylistically, Hindemith could be classed as a modernist in the vein of Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg. Several years ago, I remember seeing a show by Quebec artist Yves Gaucher at the MacKenzie Art Gallery that included several monochromatic prints intended to serve as a homage to Webern. Other people, though, were less enamoured of the type of music Webern, Hindemith and their contemporaries produced.

Hindemith’s rise to prominence coincided with the emergence of the Nazi party in Germany. In some quarters, he was denounced for the unconventional, atonal character of his music. But he also had supporters who touted him as an example of the avant garde nature of German culture.  

Married to a Jewish woman, Hindemith immigrated to Switzerland in 1938, and the U.S. a couple of years later to avoid persecution. His contrapunctual style differs significantly from that of Mozart so this concert serves as a neat juxtaposition of two different eras and approaches to classical music.

To close, here’s video of Glenn Gould performing a piano sonata by Hindemith.