Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Paul Hindemith was among the greatest 20th-century composers, as well as a music theorist and renowned violist. While Bach provides the contrapunctal inspiration, Hindemith's harmonic language, especially in this piece, is more like early Schoenberg.
Mathis der Maler, an opera made into a symphony, is one of Hindemith's most popular works. The opera was about a master painter in the sixteenth century named Matthias Grunewald: "The painter abandons his studio to make cause with the Peasants' Revolt, thus turning against his patron and employer, the Cardinal Archbishop of Mainz. The difference between the ideals for which the peasants are fighting, and the reality of their behaviour in war, sickens the painter. He is beset with doubts, resolved only when the Cardinal makes it clear to him that by wholehearted devotion to his art can the artist best serve the cause of his people." (Andrew Porter)
Hindemith wrote this while living in Nazi Germany. The premiere of the symphony was in 1934, but due to the subject matter, the opera had to wait another four years for its premiere, in Zurich.
Hindemith: Mathis der Maler
von Karajan and the Berlin Phil.