Ernst Krenek

Last updated

Ernst Krenek (Czech pronunciation: [ˈkr̝ɛnɛk] , August 23, 1900 December 22, 1991) was an Austrian, later American, composer of Czech origin. He explored atonality and other modern styles and wrote a number of books, including Music Here and Now (1939), a study of Johannes Ockeghem (1953), and Horizons Circled: Reflections on my Music (1974). Krenek wrote two pieces using the pseudonym Thornton Winsloe.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising nine federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly nine million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is landlocked and highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of more than 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Contents

Life

Born Ernst Heinrich Křenek in Vienna (then in Austria-Hungary), he was the son of a Czech soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army. He studied there and in Berlin with Franz Schreker before working in a number of German opera houses as conductor. During World War I, Krenek was drafted into the Austrian army, but he was stationed in Vienna, allowing him to go on with his musical studies. In 1922 he met Alma Mahler, widow of Gustav Mahler, and her daughter, Anna, to whom he dedicated his Symphony No. 2, and whom he married in March 1924. That marriage ended in divorce before its first anniversary. [1]

Vienna Capital city and state of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution; as a result Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.

Franz Schreker Austrian composer

Franz Schreker was an Austrian composer, conductor, teacher and administrator. Primarily a composer of operas, Schreker developed a style characterized by aesthetic plurality, timbral experimentation, strategies of extended tonality and conception of total music theatre into the narrative of 20th-century music.

Jonny spielt auf, the title page of the 1926 vocal score (1st edition) Krenek Jonny-spielt-auf Titel.jpg
Jonny spielt auf, the title page of the 1926 vocal score (1st edition)

At the time of his marriage to Anna Mahler, Krenek was completing his Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 29. The Australian violinist Alma Moodie assisted Krenek, not with the scoring of the violin part, but with getting financial assistance from her Swiss patron Werner Reinhart at a time when there was hyper-inflation in Germany. In gratitude, Krenek dedicated the concerto to Moodie, and she premiered it on 5 January 1925, in Dessau. Krenek's divorce from Anna Mahler became final a few days after the premiere. Krenek did not attend the premiere, but he did have an affair with Moodie, which has been described as "short-lived and complicated". He never managed to hear her play the concerto, but he did "immortalize some aspects of her personality in the character of Anita in his opera Jonny spielt auf ". This 'jazz opera', completed in 1926, was an enormous success across Europe and made Krenek a household name for several years; there was even a brand of cigarettes, still on the market today in Austria, named "Jonny". [2] Krenek himself became uncomfortable with this success though, as his musical colleagues criticised the commercialisation of his music, and shortly afterwards changed his compositional direction radically.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

Alma Templeton Moodie was an Australian violinist who established an excellent reputation in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. She was regarded as the foremost female violinist during the inter-war years, and she premiered violin concertos by Kurt Atterberg, Hans Pfitzner and Ernst Krenek. She and Max Rostal were regarded as the greatest proponents of the Carl Flesch tradition. She became a teacher at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. However, Alma Moodie made no recordings, and she appears in very few reference sources. Despite her former renown, her name became virtually unknown for many years. She appeared in earlier editions of Grove's and Baker's Dictionaries, but does not appear in the more recent editions.

Werner Reinhart was a Swiss merchant, philanthropist, amateur clarinetist, and patron of composers and writers, particularly Igor Stravinsky and Rainer Maria Rilke. Reinhart knew and corresponded with many of the great names of the early-mid 20th century in the European artistic and musical world, and his Villa Rychenberg in Winterthur became an international meeting point for musicians and writers.

The jazz-influenced score of Jonny spielt auf and its central character of a black jazz musician (who is also seen womanising and stealing a priceless violin) brought Krenek the opprobrium of the nascent Nazi Party; the image of Jonny was distorted to form the centrepiece of the poster advertising the Entartete Musik exhibition of so-called 'degenerate' music in 1938. Krenek was frequently named as a Jewish composer during the Third Reich, although he was not, and was intimidated by the regime until his emigration; on March 6, 1933, one day after the last semi-free election of March 1933, Krenek's incidental music to Goethe's Triumph der Empfindsamkeit was withdrawn in Mannheim, and eventually pressure was brought to bear on the Vienna State Opera, which cancelled the commissioned premiere of Karl V .

<i>Jonny spielt auf</i> opera by Ernst Křenek

Jonny spielt auf is a German-language opera with words and music by Austrian composer Ernst Krenek about a jazz violinist. The work typified the cultural freedom of the 'golden era' of the Weimar Republic.

Nazi Party a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945

The National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party, was a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of National Socialism. Its precursor, the German Workers' Party, existed from 1919 to 1920.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 18th/19th-century German writer, artist, and politician

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His works include four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him have survived.

In 1938 Krenek moved to the United States, where he taught music at various universities, the first being Vassar College. He later taught at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota from 1942 to 1947. There he met and married his third wife, his student and composer Gladys Nordenstrom. He became an American citizen in 1945. He later moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he taught at The Royal Conservatory of Music during the 1950s. His students included Milton Barnes, Lorne Betts, Roque Cordero, Samuel Dolin, Robert Erickson, Halim El-Dabh, Richard Maxfield, Will Ogdon, and George Perle. He died in Palm Springs, California, where he had lived since 1966. [3] In 1998 Gladys Nordenstrom founded the Ernst Krenek Institute; in 2004 the private foundation moved from Vienna to Krems, Austria.

Vassar College private, coeducational liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States

Vassar College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, it was the second degree-granting institution of higher education for women in the United States, closely following Elmira College. It became coeducational in 1969, and now has a gender ratio at the national average. The school is one of the historic Seven Sisters, the first elite female colleges in the U.S., and has a historic relationship with Yale University, which suggested a merger with the college before coeducation at both institutions.

Hamline University private liberal arts college in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Hamline University is a private liberal arts college in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was founded in 1854 and is known for its emphasis on experiential learning, service, and social justice. The university is named after Bishop Leonidas Lent Hamline of the United Methodist Church. Hamline was the first institution of higher learning in Minnesota and is one of five Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities. The university is composed of the College of Liberal Arts, School of Education, School of Business, and the Creative Writing Programs. Hamline is a community of 2,117 undergraduate students and 1,668 graduate students.

Saint Paul, Minnesota Capital of Minnesota

Saint Paul is the capital and second-most populous city of the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of 2017, the city's estimated population was 309,180. Saint Paul is the county seat of Ramsey County, the smallest and most densely populated county in Minnesota. The city lies mostly on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the area surrounding its point of confluence with the Minnesota River, and adjoins Minneapolis, the state's largest city. Known as the "Twin Cities", the two form the core of Minneapolis–Saint Paul, the 16th-largest metropolitan area in the United States, with about 3.6 million residents.

Completions of other composers' unfinished works

After meeting Krenek in 1922, Alma Mahler asked him to complete her late husband's Symphony No. 10. Krenek assisted in editing the first and third movements but went no further. More fruitful was Krenek's response to an approximately contemporary request from his pianist and composer friend Eduard Erdmann, who wished to add Schubert's Reliquie piano sonata to his repertoire, for completions of that work's fragmentary third and fourth movements. Krenek's completion, dated to 1921 in some sources [4] but to 1922 in his own memory, [5] later found other champions in Webster Aitken in the concert hall [6] and Ray Lev; [5] Friedrich Wührer; [7] and, more recently, Stanislav Khristenko [8] on records.

Symphony No. 10 (Mahler) symphony by Gustav Mahler

Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler was written in the summer of 1910, and was his final composition. At the time of Mahler's death the composition was substantially complete in the form of a continuous draft, but not fully elaborated or orchestrated, and thus not performable. Only the first movement is regarded as reasonably complete and performable as Mahler intended. Perhaps as a reflection of the inner turmoil he was undergoing at the time, the 10th Symphony is arguably his most dissonant work.

Pianist musician who plays the piano

A pianist is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.

Eduard Erdmann was a Baltic German pianist and composer.

In his notes to the Lev recording, dated July 1947,[ full citation needed ] Krenek offered insights into the challenges of completing another composer's works in general and the Schubert sonata in particular.

Completing the unfinished work of a great master is a very delicate task. In my opinion it can honestly be undertaken only if the original fragment contains all of the main ideas of the unfinished work. In such a case a respectful craftsman may attempt, after an absorbing study of the master's style, to elaborate on those ideas in a way which to the best of his knowledge might have been the way of the master himself. The work in question will probably have analogies among other, completed works of the master, and careful investigation of his methods in similar situations will indicate possible solutions of the problems posed by the unfinished work. Even then the artist who goes about the ticklish task will feel slightly uneasy, knowing from his own experience as a composer that the creative mind does not always follow its own precedents. He is more conscious of the fact that unpredictability is one of the most jealously guarded prerogatives of genius. ... However, scruples of this kind may be set aside once we are certain that the author of the fragment has put forth the essential thematic material that was expected to go into the work. If this is not the case, I feel that no one, not even the greatest genius, should dare to complete the fragments left by another genius.

As an example, Krenek explains that a careful student of Rembrandt's style might be able to complete a painting lacking one or two corners but could never supply two entirely missing paintings from a four-painting series; such an attempt would result only in "more or less successful fakes." Turning to a musical example, Krenek, evidently unaware of the surviving sketch of a third movement, avers that Schubert's own "Unfinished" Symphony "was left by its creator with only two of its four movements written; of the other two there is no trace. It would be possible to write two or more movements to the symphony in the manner of Schubert, but it would not be Schubert."[ This quote needs a citation ]

Musical style

Krenek's music encompassed a variety of styles and reflects many of the principal musical influences of the 20th century. His early work is in a late-Romantic idiom, showing the influence of his teacher Franz Schreker, but around 1920 he turned to atonality, under the influence of Ernst Kurth's textbook, Lineare Kontrapunkt, and the tenets of Busoni, Schnabel, Erdmann, and Scherchen, amongst others. [9]

A visit to Paris, during which he became familiar with the work of Igor Stravinsky (Pulcinella was especially influential) and Les Six, led him to adopt a neo-classical style around 1924. [9] Shortly afterward, he turned to neoromanticism and incorporated jazz influences into his opera Jonny spielt auf (Jonny Strikes Up, 1926) and one-act opera Schwergewicht (1928). Other neoromantic works of this period were modeled on music of Franz Schubert, a prime example being Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen (1929). [10]

Krenek abandoned the neoromantic style in the late 1920s to embrace Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, [9] the method exclusively employed in Krenek's opera Karl V (1931–33) and most of his later pieces. [11] His most uncompromising use of the twelve-tone technique was in his Sixth String Quartet (1936) and his Piano Variations (1937). [12] In the Lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae (1941–42) Krenek combined twelve-tone writing with techniques of modal counterpoint of the Renaissance. [13]

In 1955 he was invited to work in the Electronic Music Studio at WDR in Cologne, and this experience motivated him to develop a total serial idiom. [14] Beginning around 1960 he added to his serial vocabulary some principles of aleatoric music, in works such as Horizon Circled (1967), From Three Make Seven (1960–61), and Fibonacci-Mobile (1964). [15]

In his later years his compositional style became more relaxed, though he continued to use elements of both twelve-tone and total serial techniques. [14]

Works

Decorations and awards

On Krenek's 85th birthday, the City of Vienna donated the Ernst Krenek Prize.

Bibliography

Related Research Articles

Franz Schmidt was an Austro-Hungarian composer, cellist and pianist.

Franz Schubert 19th-century Austrian composer

Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast oeuvre, including more than 600 secular vocal works, seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of piano and chamber music. His major works include the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 , the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 , the three last piano sonatas, the opera Fierrabras, the incidental music to the play Rosamunde, and the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise.

Felix Weingartner Austrian conductor, composer and pianist

Paul Felix Weingartner, Edler von Münzberg was an Austrian conductor, composer and pianist.

John Andrew Howard Ogdon was an English pianist and composer.

Harold Truscott was a British composer, pianist, broadcaster and writer on music. Largely neglected as a composer in his lifetime, he made an important contribution to the British piano repertoire and was influential in spreading knowledge of a wide range of mainly unfashionable music.

Anna Mahler Austrian sculptor

Anna Justine Mahler was an Austrian sculptor.

Vox Records is a budget classical record label. The name is Latin for "voice."

Friedrich Wührer was an Austrian-German pianist and piano pedagogue. He was a close associate and advocate of composer Franz Schmidt, whose music he edited and, in the case of the works for left hand alone, revised for performance with two hands; he was also a champion of the Second Viennese School and other composers of the early 20th century. His recorded legacy, however, centers on German romantic literature, particularly the music of Franz Schubert.

<i>Karl V</i> opera by Ernst Krenek

Karl V. is an opera, described as a Bühnenwerk mit Musik by Ernst Krenek, his opus 73. The German libretto is by the composer.

Orpheus und Eurydike is an opera by Ernst Krenek. The German text is based on a play by Oskar Kokoschka. Kokoschka began writing his play during his convalescence and it premiered in 1921, one year before Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus appeared. In 1923 he let it be known that he was looking for a composer to write incidental music. Kokoschka's expressionist, psychological treatment of the Orpheus myth, marked by his passion for Alma Mahler, appealed to Krenek so he approached Kokoschka.

Franz Schubert's Piano Sonata in C major D. 840, nicknamed Reliquie upon its first publication in 1861 in the mistaken belief that it had been Schubert's last work, was written in April 1825, whilst the composer was also working on the A minor sonata, D. 845 in tandem. Schubert abandoned the C major sonata, and only the first two movements were fully completed, with the trio section of the third movement also written in full. The minuet section of the third movement is incomplete and contains unusual harmonic changes, which suggests it was there Schubert had become disillusioned and abandoned the movement and later the sonata. The final fourth movement is also incomplete, ending abruptly after 272 bars.

Wolfgang Holzmair is an Austrian baritone.

Zeitoper was a short-lived genre of opera associated with Weimar Germany. It is not known when or by whom the term was coined, but by 1928 Kurt Weill was able to complain that it was more a slogan than a description. Like opera buffa it used contemporary settings and characters, comic or at least satiric plots and aimed at musical accessibility. Two distinguishing characteristics are a tendency to incorporate modern technology and frequent allusions to popular music, especially jazz. This last, more than any social satire, earned the suspicion of the political right and ensured that it would not survive into the Nazi era.

Thomas Larcher is an Austrian composer and pianist.

Heinrich Berté, born Heinrich Bettelheim was an Austria-Hungarian composer of operas and operettas.

Der Sprung über den Schatten is a 1924 opera by Ernst Krenek. The work parodied expressionism and psychoanalysis, and prefigured Jonny spielt auf in including jazz elements.

Sketch (music)

In music, a sketch is an informal document prepared by a composer to assist in the process of composition.

References

  1. "Composer Ernst Krenek - A Conversation with Bruce Duffie".
  2. Bischof and Pelinka 2003, 109.
  3. [Aulokithara, Wechselrahmen, Three Sacred Pieces, Echoes from Austria, var. composers (Krenek on "Echoes"), Orion Master Recordings ORS 76246, liner notes]
  4. Biographical page at Music Information Center Austria
  5. 1 2 Lev 1947.
  6. Bandoneon Recordings Webster Aitkin page (in Chinese) Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Wührer ca. 1955.
  8. Toccata Classics TOCC 0298, CD
  9. 1 2 3 Krenek 1964, 37.
  10. Krenek 1964, 37–38.
  11. Purkis 1992a.
  12. Krenek 1964, 39.
  13. Křenek 1943, 90–93.
  14. 1 2 Garrett 2001.
  15. Garrett 2001; Ogdon 1972, 106.