Hindemith's production of chamber music during the 1930s, which besides the sonatas also includes a number of songs with piano accompaniment, is enriched by several large-scale orchestral works the composition of which was motivated in different ways.
Hindemith composed the viola concerto Der Schwanendreher in 1935 for his own concert use. In this work, based on old German folk tunes, he hauntingly reflects his harassed situation in Nazi Germany. Pain, separation and being an outcast are the subjects of the songs used. Hindemith's statement is particularly clear in the second movement: here his instrument, the viola, plays the melodies of two lines of folksongs bearing the texts: «Nicht länger ich's ertrag» (I can bear it no longer) and «hab' gar ein' traurig' Tag» (I have an utterly sad day). Hindemith, who gave the premiere together with Willem Mengelberg in November 1935 in Amsterdam, was never to perform this work in Germany.
On the occasion of the death of the King of England in January 1936, Hindemith, who was at that very moment in London giving concerts, was commissioned to compose music of mourning. He completed the work within just a few days and performed it at a concert in place of the planned Schwanendreher.
Two orchestral works composed during the 1930s owe their existence to Hindemith's collaboration with the dancer and choreograph Leonide Massine. In the summer of 1937 the two men drafted the plan for a ballet about St. Francis of Assisi. This subject had interested Hindemith ever since he had seen the St. Francis frescoes of Giotto in Florence. He first composed two movement which were not ultimately used in the ballet music, but were to form an independent work together with two more movements – the Symphonic Dances. In February 1939 Hindemith subsequently sketched a ballet scenario entitled Der Kinderkreuzzug (The Children's Crusade).The ballet music for Massine bearing the title Nobilissima Visione is made up of eleven parts altogether. Five of them are part of the concert suite of the same name compiled by Hindemith shortly thereafter.
With the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra of 1939, Hindemith composed a concerto for a traditional orchestral ensemble for the first time since his student years. This virtuoso work is a successor to the great solo concertos of the romantic period, anticipating the representative works that Hindemith was to write for American orchestras during the 1940s.