Final Examination: An exam with Ernst Krenek
Among the extensive material on Krenek's teaching and lecturing activities in the institute’s archive is an examination that Ernst Krenek had prepared for the students at Vassar College for 29 May 1940.
Vassar College was founded in 1861 to give young women the opportunity for higher education with special emphasis on the liberal arts. Located in Poughkeepsie in the Hudson Valley just a few miles north of New York, it soon became one of the most prestigious academic institutions for higher general education, admitting only female students until 1969.
After temporary engagements at the Malkin Conservatory and the University of Michigan, Ernst Krenek accepted a two-year contract to become a professor at Vassar College. Like the materials for so many of his other courses and lectures, the manuscripts for the courses in music theory and composition for the students at Vassar College, preserved in the archives of the Ernst Krenek Institute, show a decidedly thorough preparation and a well-thought-out structuring of the course content. According to the directives of the music department, however, Krenek's courses aimed only for cultural enrichment of the students. At Vassar College, the study of the humanistic subjects was dedicated to an appreciation of tradition and the value of culture, not so much to launch a specific career after graduation.
From today's point of view, however, the examination mentioned at the beginning makes quite respectable demands on the students occupying themselves with music "only" for educational zeal: In addition to the formal analysis of a composition played twice on the gramophone, they had to compose a development section for a scherzo (see example of music). This examination scherzo is set within the limits of tonality but with quite strong chromatic spice. Furthermore, five short themes were to be discussed for their suitability as fugue themes and a second entry (comes = answer) was to be formulated from the one considered most suitable and the first voice to be continued (countersubject) over the second entry. Three hours were allotted for the whole exam. How would you perform?