Political Influences on Solo Trumpet Literature in 1930s Europe: An Examination of Works by Karl Pilss and Paul Hindemith
University of Kansas
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As the National Socialist Party rose to power in Germany in the 1930s and subsequently expanded their empire to surrounding areas, they employed a variety of means in an attempt to control the lives of their constituents and conquered populations. A Chamber of Music, the Reichsmusikkammer (RMK), sought to promote traditional Germanic and Romantic style music while condemning and banning music representing many twentieth-century trends. These efforts resulted in some composers and musicians being labeled as ‘degenerate,’ while others found greater success and prominence. This document focuses specifically on Karl Pilss from Austria and Paul Hindemith from Germany and how their contrasting works for solo trumpet from these years were influenced by political and social factors. Pilss composed two trumpet works, a concerto and sonata, and was heavily involved with the Trompeterchor der Stadt Wien (Vienna Brass Ensemble) that had Nazi ties. His works are deeply rooted in the late Romantic idiom characterized by Strauss and he was viewed favorably by the regime. His Trumpet Sonata was written for and dedicated to Helmut Wobisch, a prominent trumpeter in Vienna who also had Nazi ties, though his level of involvement continues to be an item of question. While successful at the time, Pilss does not hold a central place in the contemporary repertoire; his Trumpet Concerto remains virtually unknown. Paul Hindemith is one of the most famous German composers from the 1900s. His music, unlike Pilss’s, is quintessentially twentieth-century and represents different sub-genres common to the era. He was under constant scrutiny by the RMK and eventually fled to the United States. His Trumpet Sonata includes various musical references to his struggles and serves as a stark contrast to Pilss’s works, though all were composed within a five-year span. Decades later, their roles have seemingly reversed with Hindemith enjoying notoriety and frequent performances.
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