Ernst Krenek: The Man and His Music

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9780520070141: Ernst Krenek: The Man and His Music

When Ernst Krenek's opera Jonny spielt auf (Jonny plays on) opened in Leipzig in 1927, it became an instant and spectacular success. Performed in over a hundred cities and translated into a dozen languages, it became the most popular opera of this century. And Austrian-born Krenek, easily one of this century's most prolific major composers, became a wealthy man.

Ten years later, however, he found himself a destitute refugee, fleeing to the United States as Hitler's troops invaded Austria. His work, always avant-garde, had become increasingly political; Hitler banned it and labeled Krenek a "cultural Bolshevist." The composer endured long periods of hardship and neglect before his music, which was much admired by such colleagues as Stravinsky and Alban Berg but strange to American ears, was rediscovered by Europeans after the war. Eventually it brought him financial security and many honors, including the Gold Medal of Vienna and the Cross of Austria, and it has been celebrated by festivals in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, and other cities.

Krenek, who in 1945 became an American citizen, has been as experimental and broad-ranging in his compositions as he has been prolific. His 240 musical works illustrate brilliantly the principal musical trends of the century: Neoromantic tonality, Neoclassicism, free atonality, the twelve-tone technique, integral serialism, and electronic music. In addition, Krenek has also been an accomplished teacher and writer. He has taught some of America's leading composers and has several collections of essays in both German and English to his credit.

In this first major biography of Krenek, Stewart chronicles both the personal and the professional events of this brilliant, resilient composer's life. He not only explains Krenek's music in terms that enable us to comprehend and appreciate its character but vividly illustrates how Krenek's imagination has been affected by his experiences, his associates, and the massive social and artistic changes of the twentieth century. Many of the most important music figures cross the landscape of this life—Franz Schreker, Artur Schnabel, T. W. Adorno, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau—confirming Krenek's position as one of the world's foremost composers.

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About the Author:

John L. Stewart is Provost Emeritus of John Muir College at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of John Crowe Ransom (1962) and The Burden of Time (1965).

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