Early Krenek in a Mahlerian mood
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 07/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ernst Krenek (1900-91) has been called the archetype Viennese composer of his century since his compositions span just about every musical trend of the 20th century. More than almost any other composer of his time, Krenek moved from the late romantic idiom projected in this symphony to the jazz-infected neoclassicism of his 1927 opera Jonny spielt auf to 12 tone, atonality and electronic compositions.
He made serious study of 12 tone technique in the 1930s and composed the first dodecaphonic opera. Krenek visited the USA in 1937 and later taught music there. After Hitler invaded Poland he was expelled from Vienna and took up permanent residence in USA in 1945. His wartime vocal compositions are tonal and traditional. To show he was interested in every 20th century trend, he took up electronic composition in the 1950s and 1960s. He wrote chamber, piano and orchestral music, numerous operas, lieder and other vocal music.
Krenek's music from the 1920s is chromatic, dark and foreboding. That period produced the Symphony No. 2, Op. 12. The symphony premiered in Kassel in 1923 to controversy. The long work -- 64-plus minutes in this somewhat broad recording -- has been called Mahlerian for its duration and other obvious connections. The composer was briefly married Anna Mahler, daughter of the composer, and Alma Mahler asked him to complete her late husband's Symphony No. 10. He did so partially, sketching sections of two movements.
While the connection to Mahler is clear, I would characterize this symphony as being equally Shostakovichian for its dark content and a stream of consciousness similar to the Russian composer. Indeed, Symphony No. 2 is a ritualistic, virulent composition whose enduring darkness projects the fear and anger endemic to German society in the postwar 1920s.
This is Lothar Zagrosek's second recording of the Symphony No. 2, having previously recorded it with the ORF Symphony Orchestra. This version is somewhat slower than his earlier traversal but better captures the brooding nature of the music. Its engineering is flawless, as is the playing of Europe's oldest orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus. The reading has more character than the far more rapid and feisty recording by Takao Ukigaya and the NDR Radio Philharmonic on CPO Ernst Krenek: Symphony No. 2, Op. 12.
This recording is part of Decca's late 1990s Entartete Musik series dedicated to composers whose "degenerate music" casued them to be displaced, suppressed or expelled from Nazi Europe. Krenek, a Catholic, was thought by Nazis to be Jewish and was so displaced. Ironically, his life ran ito difficulty in USA where he did not easily adjust and was at one point thought possibly to be a communist. Whether Catholic, Jew, Nazi or communist, Krenek is an interesting character whose music enters windows where most fail to go."