Requiem «For Those We Love»
Although Hindemith basically kept his music free of biographical features and regarded the autonomy of music as being dissolved from the principle of excessively musical expression, he repeatedly reacted in his music to the political catastrophes of his time. In this way, the extra-musical meanings can be directly and unequivocally determined through musical quotation, texts interspersed in the works, work and movement titles or explanatory notes.
Hindemith's plans to emigrate from Nazi Germany are documented in the viola concerto Der Schwanendreher (1935) through the songs used and in the relationship of the First Piano Sonata (1936) to Hölderlin's poem ‹Der Main.› The Trauermusik (Mourning Music) from the Sonata for trumpet and piano (1939) reacts to the outbreak of the Second World War, the recitative This World's Joy from the Sonata for Two Pianos, Four Hands (1942) to Germany's declaration of war on the United States that made the emigrated Hindemith into an «enemy alien.»
With the composition When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd: A Requiem «For Those We Love» (1946) to the poem of the same title by Walt Whitman, Hindemith not only testified to his gratitude towards the United States for having granted him refuge, protection and security during the Nazi period, but he also reacted to the disclosure of the Holocaust.
At the centre of the work (No. 8 Sing On! You Gray-Brown Bird) Hindemith quotes the Jewish melody ‹Gaza,› which he found in a song book used in New Haven with the text of the hymn ‹For Those We Love› by Walter Charles Piggott. On the one hand, Hindemith derived almost all the main themes of the work from this Jewish ‹Gaza› melody and, on the other hand, he adapted his own melodies to this ‹Gaza› melody so well that it no longer has the effect of a quotation, but unfolds completely in the character of Hindemith's music. The transformation of his own music to fit the Jewish melody can be understood programmatically: the incomprehensible events, which no images of horror can adequately convey, must be retained in an identifying memory and transformed into a personal experience which is impossible to lose.