Krenek, Ernst


Krenek, Ernst

Kleine Symphonie op.58

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Ernst Krenek

Kleine Symphonie Op. 58 (1928)

(b. Vienna, 23 August 1900 — d. Palm Springs / California, 22 December 1991)

Krenek’s Kleine Symphonie Op. 58, 1928, was premiered in Berlin, conducted by Otto Klemperer. The score and parts were published by Vienna’s foremost publisher of contemporary music, Universal Edition 1. Scored for 2 flutes, 3 clarinets B-flat and E-flat (bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (contra bassoon), 3 trumpets in C, 2 trombones, 1 tuba, harp, 2 mandolins, 1 guitar, 2 banjos, timpani, percussion (tenor drum, side drum, bass drum, cymbals), 2 violins and 2 double basses, it shows a rich inventiveness in orchestration influenced by his teacher Schreker and Krenek’s foray into neo-classicism whilst embracing the modern sounds of contemporary Vienna. The unusual list of instruments incorporates a jazz sound with plucked instruments like the mandolin (the archetypal symbol of Picassso2), banjo and guitar which are paired in interesting ways exhibiting Krenek’s ability to create “a new sound cosmos from the smallest elements”.3 The piece is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of sounds blending/jarring and ultimately working together to make a Persian carpet of auricular colours. Krenek comments that the whole piece is “really jazzy”. 4 This work follows Krenek’s embracing of atonality in 1920, his visit to Paris in 1924 where he was influenced by neo-classicism, his highly successful opera Jonny spielt auf (1926) with its jazz influences but comes before his espousal of Schubert in his Reisebuch aus den östereichischen Alpen of 1929. Each movement is a distinctive entity in terms of pace and rhythm however, there are certain techniques such as the use of ostinatos, counterpoint and the neo-classical forms which link them together creating a unified whole.
Although the work is frequently called a parody, this is to be understood not as a pastiche but as a hommage. The work shows Krenek’s admiration for the parody elements found in Gustav Mahler (then popular in Vienna and a favourite with Schreker) together with his admiration of Bartók and Stravinsky’s keen use of rhythm and Schreker’s inimitable orchestration. Krenek commented that the compositional period between Jonny spielt auf! (1925) and the Reisebuch (1929) exhibited “the aggressive idiom of atonality, whose main organizing agency was elemental rhythmic force”.5

However, he does not take other composers’ material and set it within his own work, rather he inhabits their world, adopts their techniques and walks in their shoes to build movements uniquely his own. His parodies are an exploration of styles and forms – he was first and foremost a thinker, a philosopher, and this he admits in his Selbstdarstellung (the title itself implying a personal exposure, a representation – Darstellung – of himself): “This book is not an autobiography, but an attempt at self-analysis”.6 He was forever seeking to understand himself, his art, his world. He reflects that in his youth he sought to write “pure” music detached from the strains of daily life but at the same time wanted “practical” results.7 His parodic pieces would seem to be his solution to these two conflicting desires. Detached from the strains of daily life because they centre on varied musical styles, but bringing immediate success as they are appealing, veiling his masterful craftmanship. …



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Score No.



Repertoire Explorer




210 x 297 mm





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