Career as a Conductor
With his European tours after the Second World War, Hindemith increasingly developed his conducting activities; these took up all his time after 1953 after he had given up his work at Yale University. He had indeed conducted in public for the first time in 1915 and repeatedly guest conducted exclusively his own music in the United States, but after 1947 he also included music of other composers – at first Bach, Haydn and Mozart – on his programmes.
Hindemith not only made guest conducting appearances in all the European centres (for example in London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna) with the be¬st orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmo¬nic, London Symphony Orchestra), but also appeared in provincial cities in England, Italy and Germany. Extended tours in 1954 took him to South America and in 1956 through Japan (with the Vienna Philharmonic). In his final years he also conducted in the United States again. He preferred to conduct regular symphony concerts whilst, as Gertrud Hindemith wrote to Schott Publishers, he tended «to avoid music festival concerts with the eternally same ‹international› musicians' public.» He also conducted very few operatic performances, and these were almost exclusively of his own works.
Since Hindemith could play nearly all the orchestral instruments, had perfect pitch and had the richest possible experience as an orchestral musician, he was an ideal conductor. He nonetheless perceived, in the exalted position of the conductor, the public's suppressed thirst for power, which appeared to him «rather anachronistic in our democratic world of the present day.» Thus Andres Briner was able to observe «that in Hindemith, a potentially magnificent orchestral leader, predestined through his enormous knowledge of the musical material, was in conflict with a musician to whom the individual and preferential position of the conductor was abhorrent, and he therefore tried to divest himself of this position, often to the detriment of the music.»