Hindemith reminisced around 1935: «I had probably always written, but it was only after I had used up mountains of manuscript paper alongside my activity as an instrumentalist and after several of my works had appeared in print that I started to believe, at about age 24, in my compositional talent.»
Amongst these «mountains of manuscript paper» are works of nearly all genres: chamber music (Andante and Scherzo for Clarinet, Horn and Piano, Op. 1, 1st String Quartet, Op. 2, Piano Quintet, Op. 7), orchestral music (Merry Sinfonietta, Op. 4), concertos (Concerto for violoncello Accompanied by Orchestra, Op. 3), piano music (Waltzes for Piano Four Hands, Op. 6), lieder (Lieder in Aargau Dialect, Op. 5, 3 Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, Op. 9) and even an unfinished opera (The Cousin's Visit based on W. Busch).
With the exception of the 3 Pieces for Violoncello and Piano, Op. 8, none of these works was published during Hindemith's lifetime; he never even heard the Merry Sinfonietta, Op. 4 or the 3 Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, Op. 9. Some of these works, including the Andante and Scherzo, Op. 1 and the Piano Quintet, Op. 7, have not been preserved and are lost.
These works, made generally known after 1973 – Hindemith's estate became accessible only 10 years after his death due to a provision outlined in his will – form the body of Hindemith's early works. They make clear his compositional point of departure, which cannot be assigned to any particular school or direction; rather, he assimilated procedures that had crystallised since Wagner and Brahms.
Hindemith did not latch onto any existing musical trend. In his harmony, he was influenced by French and Russian music, by Brahms in his use of form, by Reger in the chromatic tendencies of his writing and the use of contrapuntal techniques, by Strauss in his melodic élan, by Schreker in his orchestral colouration and by early Schönberg in the programmatic linking of instrumental music with poetry. In all this, Hindemith's genuine compositional gifts are revealed in the incredibly sure application of the adopted procedures, in the originality of the ideas in the works and in the ability to express himself musically at all, even if this expression was not yet unmistakably personal.