Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation
Ernst Křenek’s Second Piano Sonata The Embodiment of his Stabilization Period Public Deposited
Ernst Křenek (1900-1991) was an Austrian composer. He resided in various places throughout Europe, until he emigrated to the United States in 1938. In the U.S., he taught and lectured at various universities. Today, he is remembered for his association with The Second Viennese School. Krenek is also known for his completion of Schubert’s Reliquie piano sonata and his editing of movements of Mahler’s 10th symphony.
Krenek’s views on music changed throughout his life. His long lifespan exposed him to a variety of musical perspectives. He grappled with ideas such as music’s function or “appropriate” aesthetics; at times he contradicted his own previously held beliefs. Krenek believed “systems come and systems go; since none is inherent in the material, composers select whatever system is needed to solve the problems presented by their expressive aims.”1
In the 1920s, Krenek had three stylistic shifts. From 1916 to 1921, he studied with Franz Schreker, a famous opera composer and teacher. Krenek’s music from this period used late-Romantic harmonic language. In 1921, Krenek left Schreker’s tutelage. From then on, he experimented with various styles, particularly with Expressionism. In 1924, Krenek travelled to Paris, which would be a turning point in his musical style, culminating in his third period. He called the years from 1925 to 1929 a “stabilization period”;2 his music became freer, combining various styles with great appeal for audiences.
Krenek’s musical style can be traced through a study of his piano works. “Since composing his opus one . . . he turned to the piano again and again when he was moved to test a new stylistic or technical idea.”3 This paper will focus on Krenek’s Second Sonata, and how it is representative of his stabilization period.
1 John Stewart, Ernst Krenek: The Man and His Music (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1991), 111.
2 Ernst Křenek, Music: Here and Now, trans. Barthold Fles (New York: Russell & Russell, 1939), 86.
3 Candice Koehn-Griffith, “The Solo Piano Works of Ernst Krenek” (D.M.A. diss., University of Colorado, 1989), 1.
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