History of the Paul-Hindemith-Society in Berlin

The Paul-Hindemith-Society in Berlin was founded 1966 as „Society of the Friends of the Public University for Music and Performing Arts in Berlin“ by, amongst others, such unforgettable personalities like Maria Ivogün, Boris Blacher, Hans Chemin-Petit, Gottfried von Einem, Hans Scharoun, Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt and Herbert von Karajan. As chairperson of the society acted Elisabeth Grümmer, Dr. Joachim Tiburtius, Eberhard Finke, and others. The present chairwoman is Roswith Staege, Professor for transverse flute at the Berlin University of Arts and international acting.

The society pursues mainly the objective to support financially highly talented students of music and performing arts who are economically in a difficult situation, by granting scholarships, in order to enable or to facilitate their studies. The fees of our members and donations are used for this purpose. Right from the start, the society was also in favor to create a public platform for the supported students. Therefore, the society endeavors to present the scholarship students to a broader public.

By renaming the society in 2001, Paul Hindemith, a famous musician, composer, and teacher shall be honored who also worked at the Berlin Public University for Music.

Paul Hindemith and Berlin

In Mai 1927, Paul Hindemith (1895 – 1963) started his teaching activity at the Berlin Public University for Music, being hardly over 30 years and one of the most respected composers of the younger generation. The provocative and ironical sound of his music had created his reputation as „enfant terrible“; now the composer and viola player established himself with his teaching post in Berlin. He stayed there – with disruptions during the era of the national socialism – during an important decade. Together with Max Bruch, Engelbert Humperdinck, Franz Schreker and Boris Blacher he belongs to the well-respected and internationally distinguished teachers for composition which the Berlin Public University for Music – nowadays the Berlin University of Arts – features in its history.

During Hindemith's time in Berlin, pedagogical ambitions became important. Hindemith taught in an unorthodox and dedicated way. He participated in the experimental work of the trial broadcasting station of the University where he taught the soundtrack course.  In 1930, he brought the musical festivals of Donaueschingen and Baden-Baden under the title „New Music Berlin“ to the University. He collaborated also in cultivating early music. For historical performances, valuable instruments from the collection of the University, nowadays the Museum of Musical Instruments, were used. Besides his activities at University, Hindemith was a honorary teacher at the public music school in Neukölln.

In the collective memory of Berlin, the events of the „case Hindemith“ are engraved: In 1934, one year after the nazi takeover, the premiere of his symphony 'Mathis der Maler' under the conductor Furtwängler became a public demonstration against the outlawry of the avant-garde. The arguments between Hindemith and the Nazis ended only with his emigration to Switzerland (1938) and afterwards to the U.S.A. Against the Nazi-regime, Hindemith observed a wait-and-see attitude; after his suspension in fall 1934 he had several work stays in Turkey on behalf of the German government. He was ready for compromise but never allowed himself to be taken in by the Nazis.

A few weeks after the end of world war II, the Lord Mayor of Berlin, Arthur Werner, asked Hindemith to return as director of the University. But Hindemith did not respond to this and subsequent advances, although he visited Berlin often. Between 1949 and his demise, he conducted nearly 30 times performances in concert halls in Berlin, especially in the hall of the University where he conducted the Berlin philharmonic. This hall at the Hardenbergstraße which was inaugurated in 1954, was for a long time called by the man on the street „Hindemith's railway station“.

Dr. Dietmar Schenk
(The writer of this paragraph is director of the archives of the Berlin University of Arts)