Ernst Krenek

Ernst Krenek ( born August 23, 1900 in Vienna, † 22 December 1991 in Palm Springs, California; originally Krenek ) was an American composer of Austrian origin.


Ernst Krenek, son of an imperial officer of Czech origin, attended from 1911 to 1919, the Vienna School Abbey Lane and began at the same time at the age of 16 years to study composition with Franz Schreker in Vienna. After his military service, and a two-semester study of philosophy he followed his teacher in 1920 to Berlin, where he soon frequented the circles eminent musicians, including Ferruccio Busoni, Hermann Scherchen and Eduard Erdmann. His earliest works are written in a free, very individual atonality, the comic opera The jump over the shadow.

From 1923 Krenek two years held up in Switzerland and then traveled to Paris. In 1924 he married Anna Mahler, daughter of Gustav Mahler. Under the influence of Stravinsky and the French Neoclassicism to Krenek's compositional style changed towards the more accessible and more entertaining. In connection with its activities from 1925 to 1927 as an assistant to Paul Bekker, the artistic director of the opera Kassel, as was his greatest popular success, which premiered on 10 February 1927 at the Leipzig Opera House, so-called " jazz opera " Jonny spielt auf. She was one of the most performed operas in the twenties and a great public success. Hanns Eisler has declared it in a review in October 1927 as " [ ... ] boring and mindless piece of [ ... ] ", but expressly noted that he otherwise consider Krenek for a very talented composer.

After the divorce from his first wife Krenek married the famous actress Berta Hermann and returned to Vienna. Again, his compositional style transformed; after an intensive study of the music of Schubert 's neo-romantic phase, which took the life of Orestes and the song cycle travel journal from the Austrian Alps (both 1929), culminating in the opera began. But already in the same year began his exploration of the twelve-tone technique of Arnold Schoenberg, which influenced his work in the following years.

Ever since the opera Jonny spielt auf Krenek was for the Nazis a "cultural " and after coming to power in 1933, his works were banned in the German Reich. Krenek converted to Catholicism after 1930, but had the same sympathy for the Italian fascism, which he then announced publicly, said he hinwegsah on the concrete political circumstances.

Krenek composed in the period from 1930 to 1933, the twelve-tone opera Charles V, whose premiere in Vienna in 1934, however, prevented for political reasons and could be held in Prague in 1938.

1937 Krenek traveled for the first time in the USA, in which he emigrated after the "Anschluss " of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938. After the war he could never decide on a final return to Europe. In the U.S. he then began an intensive teaching, first since 1939 at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, from 1942 to 1947 at the School of Fine Arts at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 1945 he became an American citizen. The spelling of his name he had changed in America for the sake of simplicity Krenek. From 1947 to 1966 he lived in Los Angeles and held guest lectures at various universities. In 1950 he married his third wife, the composer Gladys Nordenstrom. Among the most important works of these years include the choral work Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (1941 ) and the opera Pallas Athena cries ( 1955).

Unbroken continued the experimentation Krenek. Since the 1940s, he worked on the serial music, and took place in the fifties and the electronic music collection in his work, so in the spirit of Pentecost oratorio intelligentiae sanctus ( 1955-1956, in collaboration with the Studio for Electronic Music of the WDR in Cologne). In 1966, he moved to Palm Springs, but long he was again active in Europe as a performer of his works. Until his last years he composed tirelessly so that his oeuvre reached the opus number 242. His work includes almost all styles of the 20th century, and, like Stravinsky, he reached an extraordinary championship in any style.

Private used Krenek lively exchange with the leading artists and intellectuals of his time as Rilke, Adorno, Thomas Mann, Schoenberg and Stravinsky.

Krenek is in the Vienna Central Cemetery (Group 33 G, number 1) buried in a grave of honor. In 2011, in Vienna Liesing ( 23rd District ), Ernst Krenek alley named after him.


On the occasion of his 85th birthday founded the city of Vienna in his memory the Ernst Krenek Prize.



  • Stronghold. Scenic Cantata, Op 14 (1922, UA 1924)
  • The jump over the shadow, Op 17 (1923, UA 1924)
  • Orpheus and Eurydice, Op 21 (1923, UA 1926)
  • Bluff, operetta, Op 36 (1924/1925; Ms)
  • Jonny spielt auf, Op 45 (1925-1926; UA 1927)
  • The dictator, Op 49 (1926, UA 1928)
  • The Secret Kingdom, Op 50 (1926-1927; UA 1928)
  • Op Heavyweight, or The honor of the nation's 55 (1926-1927; UA 1928)
  • Op Life of Orestes 60 (1928-1929; UA 1930)
  • Clean Sweep at St. Stephan op 66 (1930, Barenreiter, UA 1990)
  • Charles V, Op 73 (1930-1933; UA 1938)
  • Cefalo e Procri op 77 (1933-1934; UA 1934)
  • Tarquin, Op 90 (1940, UA 1950)
  • What Price Confidence? ( Matter of Trust ) op.111 ( 1945-1946; UA 1960)
  • Dark Waters ( Dark Water ), Op 125 (1950; UA 1950)
  • Pallas Athene crying op 144 (1952-1955; UA 1955)
  • The Bell Tower ( The Tower), Op 153 ( 1955-1956; UA 1957)
  • Ironically and playful, Op 179 (1961; UA 1962)
  • The Golden Bock ( chrysomallos ) op 186 ( 1963 UA 1964)
  • The Magic Mirror. Television opera, Op 192 (1966)
  • That's what happens or if Sardakai goes on tour op 206 (1967-1969; UA 1970)
  • Bottle of paradise, TV piece of electronic music (1973, ORF Vienna)


  • Mammon, Op 37 (1925 )
  • The reversed Cupido op 38 (1925 )
  • Eight Column Line Op 85 (1939 )

Orchestral works

  • Symphony No. 1, Op 7 ( 1921)
  • Symphony No. 2, Op 12 (1922 )
  • Symphony No. 3, Op 16 (1922 )
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op 29 (1924 )
  • Symphony for wind instruments et Battery Op 34 (1924-1925)
  • Little Symphony, Op 58 (1928 )
  • Symphony No. 4, Op 113 (1947 )
  • Symphony No. 5, Op 119 (1949 )
  • Symphony " Pallas Athene ", Opus 137 (1954)

Choral works

  • Lamento della Ninfa (after Monteverdi )
  • Three mixed a capella chorus, Op 22
  • The Seasons, Op 35 (1925 )
  • Cantata of the transience of earthly things, Op 72 (1932 )
  • Two Choruses on Jacobean Poems, Op 87
  • Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae op 93 (1942 )
  • Five Prayers op.97
  • Good morning, America, Op.158 (1956 )
  • Six Motets for words of Franz Kafka op.169
  • O Holy Ghost, Op 186A (1964 )

Works for wind instruments

  • Three funny marches (first performed in 1926 in Donaueschingen )
  • Suite 1955
  • Intrada
  • Flute piece neunphasig (flute and piano)



  • Fibonacci Mobile op.187 for string quartet, piano, four hands and coordinator (1964 )


  • "Craft" of the composer. In: Frankfurter Zeitung. Empire edition of 7 October 1934 Number 510-511, p 13
  • About new music. Six Lectures on introduction to the theoretical foundations. . Bookstore Ring, Vienna 1937 Reprint: University Press, Darmstadt 1977.
  • In the breath of time. Memories of the modern age. From the American English by Friedrich Saathen. Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-455-11170- X.
  • Thoughts go. Documents a journey, ed. by Friedrich Saathen; Albert Langen -Georg Müller, Munich 1959.