Hanns Jelinek – Symphonia Brevis op. 16 for Orchestra
(b. Vienna, 5 December 1901 – d. Vienna, 27 January 1969)
Preface (pictures, illustrations are not available online)
The musical oeuvre of Viennese composer Hanns Jelinek features a wide variety of styles. His early compositions are rooted in post-romantic tonal harmony. References to popular music abound, such as in Jelinek’s works for jazz band, in his music for film, or in his Viennese songs and chansons, but also in his compositions in the more traditional genres of art music. In the early 1930s, Jelinek turned towards free atonality and, with the Second String Quartet op. 13 of 1934-35, to twelve-tone composition, whose principles he continued to research over the next three and a half decades. No matter the particular style or compositional technique, Jelinek’s music is striking for the variety of its means of expression and for the wide range of characters it embodies, often with allusions to earlier music.
As a composer, Jelinek was largely self-taught because he had to make a living on his own and look after his ill mother already during his gymnasium years, following the early death of his father.1 He studied for three months with Arnold Schoenberg at the Schwarzwald School in 1918-19 (that is, before Schoenberg had discovered the twelve-tone method for himself), was for a brief period a private student of Alban Berg, and from 1920 to 1922 took piano, harmony, and counterpoint lessons with Franz Schmidt at the Vienna Musikakademie.2 Until his regular teaching activity starting in 1958 at the Vienna Musikakademie, where he was appointed Professor extraordinarius in 1960 and Full Professor in 1965, Jelinek made ends meet as a pianist in cinemas and bars, as band leader, and as a composer of film music.3 It was these circumstances that contributed to the stylistic plurality of his own music, on one hand, and that, on the other hand, forced him to acquire the newer compositional techniques by himself. His self-taught knowledge of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method formed the basis for his research into dodecaphony, which he illuminated in a highly systematic manner in his theoretical treatise Anleitung zur Zwölftonkomposition (Part I, 1952; Part II, 1958)—one of the earliest books of its kind—and several articles. …
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