Author Archives: Elisabeth Reisinger

A Connection Between Wittgenstein and Goodman: Paul Hindemith

At first glance, pianist Paul Wittgenstein and clarinetist Benny Goodman don’t have much in common. The one came from one of the wealthiest families in Austria and pursued a career as a classical pianist, although his family initially did not approve. The other grew up in poor circumstances as the son of Jewish immigrants in Chicago and achieved enormous success as a swing musician in the U.S. and around the world. And yet, in my research, I foreground their commonalities: both commissioned famous composers of their time to write new concertos for them, in one case even the same person: Paul Hindemith (1895-1963).

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A Trip to Bavaria and Piano Music for One Hand Only

Again on the train, and again heading west. This time it’s Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) I follow. As briefly described earlier, Wittgenstein was a Vienna-born pianist. He was the offspring of one of the richest Austrian families and among his siblings were, for instance, Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein, known for her commitment to promoting the arts, and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The habitus of patronizing the arts, especially music, was certainly a trait Paul inherited from this background. But he also wanted to be on stage himself. Although his father originally intended otherwise, Paul followed his ambition to become a professional pianist and began giving successful concerts shortly before the outbreak of World War I.

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Performers as Commissioners – New Research Project

The last quarter of 2021 held something special for me: the start of my new research project “Performers as Commissioners of New Music in the Twentieth Century: Preconditions, Self-Conceptions, Impacts.” It is funded by an Elise Richter Grant (with a volume of € 379,095.37) from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and runs from October 2021 to September 2025 at the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna. As a follow up to my work on Benny Goodman, this study includes further artists, who essentially shaped their instruments’ repertoires and aesthetics by hiring composers to write for them (see below), and takes the questions investigated within the Goodman-pilot onto a broader level.

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