Postion of Hindemith in Musical Life
Oskar Kokoschka reacted to the death of Hindemith in a letter to Gertrud Hindemith as follows: «It is with truly profound sadness that I have heard on the radio about the great loss that you, Madame, and the world spiritual community are suffering. I am all the more sorry at a time that seems so decidedly in favour of dispensing with artistic achievement as the present time, that an artist who still has so much to say leaves us prematurely.»
Not only did Hindemith succeed, as the last German composer after Richard Strauss, in holding together a life in music through his œuvre including all areas of music; far more than that, he was also able to have a profound effect on cultural life in general and find the great respect, recognition and appreciation that was denied him only by the avant garde surrounding Theodor W. Adorno.
Nearly all the composers of his generation in Italy, France, Germany, England, Sweden, the United States and the USSR oriented themselves on certain creative periods in his development; he enjoyed, in many cases, close relationships with the most renowned conductors of the epoch and he was bound in friendship with many of the best musicians of his time; his oeuvre is firmly established in general musical life to an extent and depth matched by no other composer of the twentieth century. In his late period he collaborated with such widely differing authors as Paul Claudel, Thornton Wilder and Carl Zuckmayer; collaborations with Jean Cocteau, Jean Tardieu and Eugène Ionesco had been planned.
He was a highly esteemed member of the order «Pour le Mérite,» to which scientists and artists including Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Lise Meitner, Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg and Adolf Butenandt belonged in 1963, and before which he delivered his polemic against the musical avant garde «Dying Waters» in 1963 which he then did not want to publish. The Chancellor of the Order, historian Percy E. Schramm, remembers: «[...] but we remained proud that Paul Hindemith belonged to us and that this was so clearly stated in his Bonn lecture at our last conference. The buoyant impression with which [he] [...] turned back to us from the lectern is still crystal clear to me. In his face was reflected the rogue: ‹now I've let the others have it!›»
In an obituary in the Stuttgarter Zeitung for Hindemith one could read: «Hindemith is, after Richard Strauss, the internationally accredited representative of contemporary German music. In addition to that, he was a phenomenon of increasing rarity in our times: namely a personality of high standing whose inner unity held its ground without compromise against all the different expectations, claims and impertinences of the fluctuating fashionable currents of culture of any given moment. Here was one, again, in the middle of the already unlimitedly valid tendency towards artistic conformity, whose activities were nurtured entirely from the centre of his own strong individuality.»