Early piano works by Ernst Krenek
With a new recording of Ernst Krenek's “First Piano Sonata”, op. 2, the “Sonatinas for Piano”, op. 5 and the “Six Piano Pieces”, W.o.O. 56, pianist Mikhail Korzhev delves into an early creative phase of Ernst Krenek on his latest CD release. The works were composed from 1919 to 1921 during Krenek's studies with Franz Schreker and already show the musical openness and curiosity that characterized Krenek already in his younger years.
In his three-movement “First Piano Sonata”, composed in 1919, a strong influence of the late Romantic style of his teacher Franz Schreker can be heard. Schreker, who liked the work, proposed the piano sonata - along with other works by his students - for publication by Universal Edition as part of a grant from the Ministry of Education.
„It surely was a day of great pride when I walked into the offices of the busy publishing house not as a voluntary proofreader, but as author who was to receive a contract in order to see his work published. Naturally I was not too particular about the details of the contract which included an option on all my works for the ensuing ten years, and not only should various troubles arise from that stipulation, but it also determined to some extent the position which my works were to acquire in the musical life of the period.“
In the following year, Ernst Krenek wrote six short piano pieces (W.o.O. 56) - probably study works, each a miniature with its own sound world - and a little later five sonatinas, which he grouped together as opus 5. Krenek composed the first three while still in Vienna, the fourth in Berlin, where he had followed his teacher to continue his studies. Krenek considered the sonatinas "rather worthless, slick pieces" (Memoirs) and so they have remained unpublished to this day. The autograph of the fifth sonatina seemed to be lost for a long time and only turned up a few years ago in a library in Winterthur (Switzerland). The place and time of composition of “Sonatina No. 5” are unclear, but it was most likely written in the period 1920-1921.
Stylistically, Krenek's early piano works can be located in the late romantic period, but also experiments with neoclassicism, French impressionism and expressionism. They already point to the musical future of the young composer, who was about to develop further into the musical world of atonality just a little later.
With great technical skill, artistic sensitivity and finesse, the California-based pianist Mikhail Korzhev presents the early piano works. Four of the sonatinas are first recordings and he shows with virtuosity and brilliance that Krenek did not necessarily make the right call in hiding his sonatinas from the public. We are pleased that Mikhail Korzhev has repeatedly and commendable championed the work of Ernst Krenek. Already his releases of Krenek's piano concertos Vol.1 and Vol.2 for Toccata with the English Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Woods have received international acclaim.
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