When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (Hindemith)

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When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd: A Requiem for those we love
Choral composition by Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith USA.jpg
The composer in 1945
Occasion Memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Text "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" by Walt Whitman
Language English
Composed 1946 (1946)
Performed 14 May 1946 (1946-05-14): New York City
  • mezzo-soprano
  • baritone
  • mixed choir
  • orchestra

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd: A Requiem for those we love is a 1946 composition by composer Paul Hindemith, based on the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman. Conductor Robert Shaw and the Robert Shaw Chorale commissioned the work after the 1945 death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It received its world premiere on May 14, 1946 at New York City Center, with the Collegiate Chorale conducted by Shaw and soloists Mona Paulee, contralto, and George Burnson, baritone.[1]

David Neumeyer and others regard the Lilacs Requiem as Hindemith's "only profoundly American work."[2] Paul Hume said, "I doubt if we shall ever mourn Abraham Lincoln's untimely death more eloquently than in the words of Walt Whitman set to the music of Paul Hindemith; it is a work of genius and the presence of the genius presiding over its performance brought us splendor and profound and moving glory."[3]

The work is scored for mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, SATB chorus, and full orchestra. After an unnumbered orchestral introduction, the text of the poem is divided into 11 movements:

  1. When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd (baritone and chorus)
  2. Arioso. In the swamp (mezzo-soprano)
  3. March. Over the breast of spring
  4. O western orb (baritone and chorus)
  5. Arioso. Sing on, there in the swamp
  6. Song. O how shall I warble
  7. Introduction and Fugue. Lo! body and soul
  8. Sing on! you gray-brown bird
  9. Death Carol. Come, lovely and soothing Death (chorus)
  10. To the tally of my soul
  11. Finale. Passing the visions (mezzo-soprano, baritone, and chorus)

The work is scored for mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, mixed choir, and an orchestra of 2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (one doubling cor anglais), clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), 3 horns, 2 trumpets, off-stage bugle, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, glockenspiel, chimes, tam-tam, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, field drum, organ, and strings (First & second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses).


  1. ^ Taubman, Howard (May 15, 1946). "Work By Hindemith In World Premiere". New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ Sullivan, Jack (1999). New World Symphonies, p.122. ISBN 978-0-300-07231-0.
  3. ^ Kramer, Lawrence (2000). Walt Whitman and Modern Music, p.89. ISBN 978-0-8153-3154-4.

Further reading[edit]