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Homage to Krása, Smit and Winterberg


Academic year: 2024

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The master project 'Homage to Krása, Smit and Winterberg' focuses on the music composed for clarinet during the Second World War. The main goal of the master project called “Homage to Krása, Smit and Winterberg” is to introduce music written for clarinet in different settings during the Second World War and written by composers whose life stories are for one reason or another connected to this specific time of history.

Historical Background

Hans Krása (1899 – 1944)

  • Three Songs for Baritone, Clarinet, Viola and Cello

He was a member of the Literarisch-Künstlerisch Verein (Association for Literature and Art) which created an important part of German cultural life in Prague. Brundibár became a cultural symbol of the Terezín concentration camp and helped all the artists, both adults and children, find distraction from daily life in the ghetto.

Leo Smit (1900 – 1943)

  • Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano

Two weeks before the outbreak of World War II; he premiered his Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Trio for clarinet, viola and piano (original Dutch: Trio voor clarinet, altviool en klavier) was completed before the outbreak of World War II, in 1938.

Hans Winterberg (1901 – 1991)

  • Suite for Clarinet and Piano

Because of his Jewish origins, Winterberg was deported to the Terezín concentration camp in January 1945. He was looking for his wife and daughter, but discovered that they had been deported to Germany according to the Beneš Decrees45. In 1948, depending on the political situation, Winterberg had to choose whether to retain Czech citizenship and return to Czechoslovakia or confess that he belonged to the Sudeten German ethnic group in order to remain in Germany.

47 Der Bayrische Rundfunk (The Bavarian Broadcasting); they had recorded over 20 hours of Winterberg's music (symphonies, his three piano concertos, ballets and pantomimes, orchestral works and chamber music). Under complicated circumstances, he was persuaded to give all the materials to the German Sudeten Music Institute in Regensburg. Most importantly, Winterberg's assets were to be embargoed until January 1, 2031, and not to provide any information about Winterberg or his family.

In 2015, after the efforts of Ruth Winterberg's son (Hans Winterberg's grandson) - Peter Kreitmeir, who together with Michael Haas published the contract on his blog Forbidden Music50, the ban was lifted and the rights have been returned to the grandson. Currently, Boosey & Hawkes is processing Winterberg's music and scripts and preparing them for publication.


Krása’s Three Songs for Baritone, Clarinet, Viola and Cello

The composer used the clarinet throughout its range against both the lowest and highest notes. Usually there are rapid transitions in the high register at the most exposed points of the song. Viola creates a kind of bridge; sometimes interacting with a clarinet or singer and sometimes with a cello.

Tremolo is often used in the viola part to create a sort of colorful fill and blend. Especially in the second and third songs, both string instruments very often play fast moving sixteenth notes (tremolo viola, regular cello). The composer uses various means to support the meaning of the text with music.

The long trill and the upward run refer to “the sea turned red at your vermilion nipples”. Another feature that we can find in this composition is the use of polyrhythmic structure in the beginning of the last song Friends.

Smit’s Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano

In the middle section (Scherzando) there are passages where you would be inclined to play a little slower, because the score says “con espressivo” and the character of the music would require it. In rehearsal number 7 there is an episodic section with the clarinet and later the viola solo part, which is not repeated anywhere else in the piece. The second b section (b') contains a beautiful canon between the clarinet and the viola, which does not appear in the first version of section (b) and could be underlined during playing.

It is interesting to hear the reminiscences of the first movement in the third movement. We assumed that the example from the first movement in the clarinet part is a misprint. Image #17: Example of a slightly different articulation of the same theme, but this time in the third movement in the viola part.

After the last citation of the "a" theme in the third movement, there is an interesting section that once again sounds like a fusion of the themes from the first and third movements. Smit uses the entire range of the clarinet and the same applies to the viola.

Winterberg’s Suite for Clarinet and Piano

The second movement (marked in the manuscript as "Interludium") is at first very meditative where the clarinet plays tremolo but gradually gains tension insisting more and more and climbing up the register. Then there is a slight return to the theme of the first movement, and then the vibrations are repeated in a higher register than at the beginning. The tricky tremolo for the clarinet is g1-b1, because it's very difficult to move between notes quickly enough, and that's why we have to use one of the side keys.

The third movement (marked in the manuscript as "Postludium" and . "Presto") creates a great contrast to the previous movements, and it is here that Winterberg uses the most polyrhythmic passages, sometimes almost omitting the melodic line.

Into Practice

Rehearsal Process

Sometimes we weren't quite sure what certain passages meant musically or how to approach them, as the style of the suite is very specific. Partly it is the longest piece in terms of duration, and partly I think it was the most complicated of the three pieces we focused on. In terms of common sound, we had difficulty finding the right balance in the ensemble.

The texture of the piano part is sometimes very dense and therefore the piano was sometimes too loud and covered the viola. It makes sense if we think about the circumstances of the origin of the pieces. We found some inconsistencies between the score and individual parts: parts were missing some marks (rhythm/accel. etc.), which sometimes caused different timings for some of us.

At the end of the process we finally performed Smit and Winterberg in concert and we made a recording of Krása in a studio. They appreciated the Trio van Smit the most and they thought it was a nice piece of music.

Concert Programme

Through program notes, I would introduce the music to the listeners to give them more context, so that it is easier for them to understand the music in the concert.60. The value that is given to it, especially for us now, is that the music of certain times reflects what was happening at that moment - in society, on the personal level of the composer or even in musical thinking in general. I tend to put the listeners into the stories behind through program notes where I explain the context of the pieces so that they can create some kind of image while listening to the piece in concert and understand the music better.

Of course, we can observe some similarities in the pieces, such as certain mood or character of the music. In conclusion, I would certainly consider the music I researched as valuable musical material, in the case of each of the three pieces for a different reason. I especially see the value of this piece because it was composed immediately in the concentration camp, and it reflects both the atmosphere of that time and situation and the composer's insight into it from the closest point of view.

In my opinion, it could certainly stand among other pieces in the repertoire of the clarinet-viola-piano trio and be performed more often, given that the entire repertoire of this ensemble is not that extensive (the repertoire itself performed on stage is even more limited). Additionally, I think that Winterberg's Suite could also potentially find a place in the clarinet repertoire when they officially release the score, making the piece more accessible to people than it is now. Finally, I would like to add that doing this project and writing this thesis has taught me several things.

Cultural behavior and the invention of traditions: music and musical practices in the early concentration camps.

Sounding Part


Text Attachments

Recorded at the Nathan Milstein Hall at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm on April 26, 2022. The star cried pink in the heart of your ears, The infinity rolled white from your neck to your loins; Dear listeners, welcome to “Shadows of the Past”, a concert in which we will present music composed during the Second World War or under certain circumstances during this period.

The bond that connects all the pieces is the shared history and atmosphere of the music and the clarinet, which is introduced in various contexts throughout the concert. The terrifying history of World War II had a huge impact on 20th century human society, which suffered the loss of numerous lives. He studied both piano and composition at the German Academy of Music in Prague and traveled to Berlin and Paris.

Three songs for baritone, clarinet, viola and cello were composed in 1943 in the Terezín concentration camp. He studied piano, conducting and composition at the German Academy of Music and the Prague Conservatory.


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