Paul Hindemith – Wir bauen eine Stadt

Paul Hindemith - Wir bauen eine Stadt LP front cover
Paul Hindemith - Wir bauen eine Stadt LP back cover
Paul Hindemith - Wir bauen eine Stadt LP side A

Paul Hindemith, late 1950sIn many ways, Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) has proved more influential on 20th century German music than, say, Wagner or Stockhausen. His position as a teacher at Berlin’s Hochschule in 1927, his music for the Jugendbewegung or German Youth Movement in the 1920s and his Gebrauchmusik or utility music of the 1930s, all promoted collective music making and welcomed untrained musicians as well as odd instrument players (see his compositions for mechanical piano, xylophone, heckelphone or trautonium). For all the talk about Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk and deathly Romanticism, his actual influence has been remarkably limited in Germany, whereas Hindemith’s shadow can be felt in the vitality of Blaseninstrument ensembles (that’s where Harald Sack Ziegler comes from) ; the happy, minimalist experimentalism of Kraftwerk and Berlin techno ; the Neue Deutsche Welle‘s pseudo-naivety – not to mention Holger Hiller’s 1981 electronic version of Wir Bauen Eine Stadt or Palais Schaumburg’s reprise of #2 Gibst du mir Steine.

Wir bauen eine Stadt (original score)Written by Hindemith in 1930, the children’s song cycle Wir Bauen Eine Stadt, or We’re Building a City, is about an imaginary city build and ruled by children alone, with all the fantasy, non-sense and naivety the situation implies. British music critic Guy Rickards says it was written “in collaboration with Berlin schoolchildren” (Hindemith, Hartmann and Henze, Phaidon, 1995), but I could not double-check the fact. The score was originally for piano and children’s choir, but the piece was premiered in 1930 by an orchestra and choir – I assume this is the version on this 1957 recording. A solo piano version was also published by Schott. These modern nursery rhymes, with lyrics by Robert Seitz and Käthe Rudo, were specifically conceived for children’s voices and un-professional musicians. Wir Bauen Eine Stadt alternates a cappella songs, dialogues, instrumental parts with choir+orchestra numbers, and Hindemith succeeds in keeping things simple but charming throughout while recreating the excitement and fun of building a city. Yet the play can also be seen as a political statement – or at least a rejection of all political statements: consider track #10, titled Bei uns haben die Erwachsenen nichts zu sagen, which translates as:  The adults are not in authority at our place (thanks, Dispokino). Note: a new orchestration was written in 1973 by Luciano Berio under the title Costruiamo Una Città (info here).

The B-side of this LP has a ravishing Kinderkantate or children play by German composer Helmut Bräutigam (1914-1942). During the 1930s, as head of the youth program on a Leipzig radio station, Bräutigam composed extensively for school orchestras and children’s choirs. Von allerlei Tieren is very likely one of these compositions.

Paul Hidemith
01 Wir bauen eine Stadt (4:00)
02 Gibst du mir Steine (:42)
03 Musik, das Bauen darstellend (:49)
04 Erst kommt der Backer (:46)
05 Mit dem Autobus (:54)
06 Ankommende Leute (2:33)
07 Ich bin ein Schaffner (:48)
08 Guten Tag, Frau Bergmann (1:49)
09 Jetzt ist’s Nacht (3:49)
10 Bei uns haben die Erwachsenen nichts zu sagen (1:13)
11 Wir bauen eine Stadt (:56)
Helmut Bräutigam
12 Von allerlei Tieren (20:06)

Rundfunk-Kinderchor Leipzig, choir
Rundfunk-Instrumentalgruppe Leipzig, orchestra
Hans Sandig, conductor

Total time 38:19
LP released by Eterna, East Berlin, DDR, 1957


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13 Responses to “Paul Hindemith – Wir bauen eine Stadt”

  1. 1 s. borges June 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Sounds quite interesting – thanks for another excellent posting!

  2. 2 continuo June 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. Thanks for your comment, Sergio.

  3. 3 icastico June 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for this. I have been collecting non-terrible children’s music for my 3 month old. This seems just right.

  4. 4 continuo June 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Many young Germans learn music with this score. Check out this YouTube video.

  5. 5 dispo June 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks for this! I love the version by Holger Hiller & Thomas Fehlmann from 1981 (there’s a nice reissue on Felix Kubin’s Gagarin records) which pretty nicely dissects an authoritarian subtext of the original.
    A little correction: “Bei uns haben die Erwachsenen nichts zu sagen” translates as: “The adults are not in authority at our place” (not “We have nothing to say to the adults”) – these kids are even stricter, as you can see…

  6. 6 continuo June 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you so much for the translation – mine was from Google, obviously. In my post, I refrained from any political analysis, but there is a political stance in Wir bauen eine Stadt. After all, Hindemith refused to have anything to do with the NSDAP and ultimately fled to the US. Strangely enough, the other composer here, Helmut Bräutigam, belonged to the NSDAP.

  7. 7 dispo June 2, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Of course, Hindemith had to go into exile, his art was considered “entartet”. I wasn’t refering to the NS. The authoritarian subtext in “Wir bauen eine Stadt” lies in the fact that the kids in their own town with no adults mirror the hierarchies and power structures of the adult world with a major and police etc.

    Another interesting thing: Hindemith’s brother in law Hans Flesch was the head of a radio station – he had ordered a regular show with electronic music around 1930! The development of the Trautonium is closely related to this fact, and Hindemith composed for that show. Also stopped by the Nazis…
    German media studies scholar Wolfgang Hagen did some fantastic research on the topic. Read some in english here:

  8. 8 Joaquín Mendoza Sebastián June 3, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Hi my friend! I was away finishing another unpaid comission!! but I’m back in the downloading!!!! =)

  9. 9 continuo June 3, 2011 at 7:08 am

    @dispo: The article on Hans Flesh looks interesting. Thanks.
    @Joaquin; Welcome back.

  10. 10 maria June 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Thanks! Im producing Wir Bauen Eine Stadt in Finnish! The premiere is going to be in the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki in 2012!

  11. 11 continuo June 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Wir Bauen Eine Stadt will sound great sung by Finnish children. Good luck with your wonderful project, Maria!

  12. 12 Tanya Ury January 8, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Dear Dispo
    Actually it’s “Here the adults don’t have a look in.”
    Great stuff though! Listened to it in my 1950’s childhood.

  13. 13 Steve January 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Please, reupload this file on another site. Link to Multiupload is redirecting to different page.

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