Hin und zurück

Hin und zurück (Back and forth) is an operatic 'sketch' (Op. 45a) in one scene by Paul Hindemith, with a German libretto by Marcellus Schiffer. It acts as a parody of conventional opera tropes featuring a coloratura ariette, a jealousy duet, and a terzet for the tenor, baritone and bass.[1]

Hin und zurück
Operatic sketch by Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith 1923.jpg
The composer in 1923
LibrettistMarcellus Schiffer
17 July 1927 (1927-07-17)

Hindemith wrote the piece for a collection of miniature operas presented on 17 July 1927 at the Baden-Baden Music Festival in the Theater Baden-Baden.[2] The work lasts for just 12 minutes. Other short works by Darius Milhaud (L'enlèvement d'Europe), Kurt Weill (Mahagonny-Songspiel) and Ernst Toch (Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse) were performed the same evening. The performance was re-enacted in October 2013 by the Gotham Chamber Opera in New York City.[3] On August 9, 1940, the piece would be performed at the Tanglewood summer music academy with Hindemith himself playing one of the piano parts.[4] He then directed three stage performances of the work at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut on May 12, 13 and 14 May 1942.[4]




Alto Saxophone




1 Four Handed Piano

1 Two Handed Piano

Harmonium (Behind the Stage)[5]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 17 July 1927
(Conductor: Ernst Mehlich)
Robert tenor J. Klemperer
Helene soprano Betty Mergler
Professor baritone Gerhard Pechner
Ambulance man bass Lothar
Wise man tenor Giebel
Aunt Silent
Serving Girl Spoken


In a kind of dramatic palindrome, a tragedy unfolds involving jealousy, murder and suicide, which is then replayed with the lines sung in reverse order to produce a happy ending.

Robert (tenor), returns home unexpectedly, and finds that his wife Helene (soprano) has received a letter from an unnamed lover. He flies into a jealous rage and shoots her. After her dead body is carried off by the Professor (baritone) and the Ambulance Man (bass), Robert throws himself out of his window. A wise man enters the stage, and deplores the tragedy. He then causes time to run backwards, causing the music and the text to also run backwards, ending the opera happily before Helene was killed.[1]

Musical style and structureEdit

The opera is notable for its structure, which has the music of the opera run backwards halfway through the opera. The piece uses the idea of retrograde overall throughout the piece but does not use it in individual phrases of text or music.[6] For example the first line of text in the opera "Guten Morgen, liebe Tante," does not get reversed as "Tante Liebe, Morgen Guten," but remains the same. Rather it is the order of phrases that is reversed so that "Guten Morgen, liebe Tante" is both the first and last lines of the opera. The also keeps the internal syntax of sentences.[6] With regards to musical phrases, musicologist Alexandra Monchick notes that:

"A literal palindrome of the music would have ramifications for the quasi-tonal. A few years later Alban Berg produced an exact palindrome for the movie sequence in his opera Lulu (1929-1934). Since Lulu was a twelve tone opera, not dependent on tonal hierarchies, Berg was able to replicate an exact palindrome at the pitch class level, without a breakdown of logical musical language. However this was not possible for Hindemith in this instance. As in most of his works, Hindemith's musical language in Hin and Zurück is tonally centered without being diatonic. The piece is based around A, the key in which the overture begins... The musical numbers also form a palindrome. Hindemith divides the opera into baroque-like short numbers: Prelude, Ariette, Duett, Terzett and their recapitulations after the Sages Monologue."[6]

The tonal scheme of the opera is:

A E A-flat E G-Sharp[6]
Prelude Terzett I Sage's Monologue Terzett II Prelude II

During the first Terzett, the harmony gradually moves by minor thirds from the key of E to the distant key of A-flat for the sages monologue. During the recapitulations, the music returns to E for the second Terzett, but instead of returning to the key of A for the second Prelude, the music instead goes to the key of G sharp, which is the leading tone to A. "Instead of forming a satisfying dramatic circle back to the tonic, the resolution is more of a dramatic spiral. This perhaps signifies that people's actions can never be completely undone...Also, the ending in the G-sharp key area is an enharmonic equivalent of A-flat, the key of the Sage's Monologue, evoking once again the cause of this reversed ending."[6]


Year Cast:




Ambulance Man

Wise Man



1964 Niels Brincker

Else Margrethe Gardelli

Gert Bastian

Mogens Wedel

Poul Wiedemann

Jørn Mathiassen Not



  1. ^ a b Skelton, Geoffrey (1992). "Hin und Zurück". In Stanley Sadie (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. 2. p. 724. ISBN 0-333-73432-7.
  2. ^ Skelton, Geoffrey (1975). Paul Hindemith. London: Victor Gollancz LTD. p. 90. ISBN 0-575-01988-3.
  3. ^ "Breaking Baden" by John Yohalem, Parterre Box, 26 October 2013
  4. ^ a b Noss, Luther (1989). Paul Hindemith in the United States. Urbana and Chicago Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-252-01563-0.
  5. ^ Hindemith, Paul. "Hin und Zurück: A Sketch with Music" (PDF). IMSLP. B. Schott's Söhne. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Monchick, A. (2012-12-01). "Paul Hindemith and the Cinematic Imagination". The Musical Quarterly. 95 (4): 510–548. doi:10.1093/musqtl/gds029. ISSN 0027-4631.

External linksEdit