Hindemith's late works, beginning in about 1957 with the Octet, are extraordinarily closely connected with the venerable old genres and, almost always, with music by other composers of the most widely varying origins. They develop models of meaningful composition under the most intensive presence of tradition.
The Madrigals (1958) follow on from the most important genre of secular vocal music and the Motets (1941-1961) from that of sacred vocal music. The Pittsburgh Symphony (1958) quotes a folksong, a song and Webern's Symphony, Op. 21, thus realising the sphere of American folk music performance as well as serial technique. The March for Orchestra on the Old ‹Schweizerton› (1960) unites the drums of the Basle Carnival with the song of the work's title and the student song ‹Gaudeamus igitur›; the Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (1962/63) unites the Pentecost hymn ‹Veni creator spiritus› with the early ‹L'homme armé› tune. The one-act opera The Long Christmas Dinner (1960/61) based on a libretto von Thornton Wilder takes up an English Christmas song; the cantata Mainzer Umzug (Mainz Procession) (1962) incorporates a text by Carl Zuckmayer about Mainz carnival music whilst the Mass (1963), Hindemith's last work, has recourse to the ancient techniques of fauxbourdon, isorhythm and the theory of figures.
Despite this technical-stylistic variety, corresponding to the transformation of his music-theoretical conceptions, these works do not at all make an eclectic or arbitrary effect, but are thoroughly homogeneous and self-contained. Whilst Theodor W. Adorno described the relationship of the New Music to tradition as follows: «The relationship to tradition now gravitates towards a canon of what is forbidden,» Hindemith, on the other hand, was interested in a contemporary music that was capable of doing justice to the standards and demands of tradition. Hindemith wished to «lift up» tradition in his late works, both preserving it and letting it merge into the New.