Category Archives: Case Studies

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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Chimes on the Rhine

The bells of the Basel Minster greeted me each morning when I arrived at the doors of the Paul Sacher Foundation. A short ringing inside the building signaled the lunch break for everyone. The Minster’s bell at 1 p.m. told me to come back. Eventually, the little chime at 4:45 p.m. would mark the end of the day in the archive. And from time to time, through the open window in the reading room, I would hear another bell ringing down at the river, meaning that someone was just calling the ferry. This is how my days were structured as I followed the traces of Antoinette Vischer (1909-1973), harpsichordist and patron of music at the crossroads of old and new.

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Interview with Composer Allen Shawn

Allen Shawn © 2018 by Cynthia Locklin

Recently, I had the great pleasure of talking to Allen Shawn. I had reached out to him in the context of my research on Benny Goodman, as he had received a composition commission from Goodman in 1983, resulting in a double concerto for clarinet, cello, and orchestra. Apart from that, Shawn has been working with numerous other performers throughout his career and his work is strongly influenced by such collaborations.

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How the “King of Swing” Became my Pilot Study for Commissioning Classical Music

Some years ago, when I more often played the clarinet myself, I put Aaron Copland’s clarinet concerto on my music stand. “For Benny Goodman,” it read on the top of the first page. What hasn’t really attracted my attention before, now distracted me from practicing the challenging cadenza: When, how, why was this piece created? I started reading and researching, and soon learned that Goodman commissioned Copland to write a concerto for him in 1947/48 for 2,000 US dollars.

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