Comments on Hindemith's Sonate,

Second Movement, Beschluβ

By Terry B. Ewell


Well, we have come to the last video in the series. Most fitting is that this movement is called Beschluβ which is translated “conclusion.” Hindemith also gives the instructions Pastorale-Ruhig, which is translated “pastoral” and “calm.”

I hope that you have had a chance to view the other three videos in this series on the Hindemith Sonate. These will be helpful for you as you study this piece.

The opening piano section should be phrased with some rubato or slight changes in tempo. This is the most extensive piano solo in the composition, so the pianist should take advantage of it.


Much of this movement, in fact, should move forward to musical goals and then relax.

The most important rhythm to master in this section is that of the dotted eighth, sixteenth, and eighth note. Let’s just call it the “Figure.” In the Figure I suggest practicing quarter note and eighth note sequences first. Practice this with a metronome, making certain that the eighth note coincides exactly with the last third of the beat. When you have mastered this rhythm add the sixteenth note. Again this should be practiced with a metronome.

Once you have mastered the rhythm of the Figure it is now time to shape these as gestures. The notes in the Figure are not played with equal emphasis. The dotted eighth on the beat receives the most weight. The eighth notes move forward to each dotted eighth and likewise the sixteenths have motion towards each eighth note. Thus the traditional beaming of the notes does not show the musical groupings of these notes. Instead the musical groupings are better represented in this figure.

I don’t play each of the Figures the same. In general, the downward moving Figures I play with more separation, coming away from notes, quicker diminuendos, with less emphasis on each note. In addition, I slightly “rhythmitize” the sixteenths. I play them a little quicker than sixteenth notes but not as quick as 32nd notes. These downward Figures I try to perform with a more relaxed, calm, and pastoral mood.


The upward moving Figures, however, I play with more length and emphasis; more agitation. The sixteenth notes are played in rhythm and lengthened. This helps to convey more weight to the notes and greater intensity. All notes are played without diminuendos and in fact move forward to the highest pitch.


In music we have special terms for types of gestures. “Motives” refers to rhythmic fragments that can be expressed with various pitches. The Figure is a motive in this movement. Phrases are longer groupings of music and here in this movement they are often made up of motives and other music materials. Both motives and phrases can be thought of as gestures, some smaller and some larger with multiple components.

Music is more than just the arrangement of starts and stops of notes. Music speaks, it stirs emotions. The goal of the musician is to communicate the music to the listener. The word “gesture” is able to describe aptly how a performer communicates to a listener. These gestures of communication are similar to the motions given by dancers. Some movements convey one meaning and other motions provide communication of something different. Brush strokes in painting may also convey many varieties of meaning.

In the example of Chinese painting I am providing here, the strokes to create bamboo stalks, branches, and leaves are gestures.

[Music with synchronized painting gestures]

Each gesture contributes in a unique way to the painting and taken altogether provide final meaning to the work. Similarly, each gesture in music builds upon and enhances the other gestures given by the performer.

[Music under this text:] The musician needs to scale each gesture. Some are less significant and therefore highlighted less in the music. Other musical statements are bold and need to be projected with more force. When you perform music paint with your tone; dance with your musical statements; speak to your audience with your musical expression. This will not only bring greater joy to your audience, but you will gain greater satisfaction with your role as an interpreter of the music.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Terry B. Ewell. All Rights Reserved.