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Bjarnat Krawc / Bernhard Schneider (1861-1948), Sorbian composer


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« on: June 23, 2022, 01:58:54 pm »

Bjarnat Krawc / Bernhard Schneider (born 5 February 1861; died 25 November 1948)

Bjarnat Krawc (pronounced like ,,crowds") was a Sorbian composer. The Sorbs are a slavic people of today ca. 60 000 members, living in Lusatia, a landscape in the eastern part of Germany of which a part is in Saxony the other in Brandenburg. Because the native land of the Sorbs is ruled by Germans since more than 1000 years there have been many attemps by German governments to germanise the Sorbs, especially during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This resulted in giving the Sorbs German names. Bjarnat Krawc was officially called Bernhard Schneider in German ("Schneider" is the German translation of "Krawc", both meaning "taylor"), the compositions of his which were not especially designated to a Sorbian audience were published under his German name. His bilingual publications were published under ,,Schneider-Krawc" or ,,Krawc-Schneider".

Krawc was the first Sorbian composer who had studied at a major German music school. In 1883 he went to Dresden were he studied first privately with Heinrich Schulz Beuthen, than at the Dresden Conservatory with Felix Draeseke, graduating in 1893. He worked in Dresden as a music teacher and choir conductor, becoming one of the highest esteemed choir masters in Saxony. In 1918 the king of Saxony bestowed upon him the title of a Royal Music Director. While living in the Saxon capital Krawc nevertheless cared much for the music life in Lusatia, organising music festivals and conducting choirs. He visited Bohemia many times where he could gain support for the cause of Sorbian music. After the First World War Krawc unsuccessfully tried to establish a Sorbian national orchestra, but made successful concert trips with his choirs to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Under the rule of the Nazis, who tried to dissolve Sorbian culture, Krawc was forced to give up his work as a conductor. In the allied air raid on Dresden (13 February 1945) all his possessions were lost in fire. The most of his compositions did survive only because he had them secretly archived by friends in Prague. After the war Krawc went to the Bohemian town of Varnsdorf were he died in 1948.

Krawc wrote compositions in nearly all genres, excluding works for the stage. The most of his work consists of vocal music, from songs for voice and piano to his monumental Missa solemnis. He was most famous in his live time for his arrangements of folk songs, both Sorbian and German. His instrumental music consists mostly of piano and chamber pieces, but there are some orchestral works to, e.g. a cycle of symphonic poems called "From Sorbian Soil".

The two main influences on Krawc's style of composition are Sorbian folk music and his teacher Felix Draeseke. Krawc was one of Draeseke's most devoted pupils. He regularly performed choral works of his teacher, and led the choir at Draeseke's funeral in 1913. Draeseke's art of polyphonic thinking is shown all over Krawc work, in his folk song arrangements as well as in his chamber music. Krawc's Missa solemnis can be called a direct successor of his teacher's late a cappella masses. As much as Draeseke influenced the composition technique of his pupil, considering the melodic invention Krawc stayed in the tradition of slavic songs and dances. The most of his instrumental music has its roots in folk dance.

If you want an introduction to Krawc's music: Youtube has some of his violin/piano pieces, a piano piece and some christmas songs, sung by a Sorbian choir, such as this:



It should be not forgotten that Bjarnat Krawc was not the last musician in his family. His daughter Rut-Marka (1900-1979) was an opera singer. She married Wilhelm Raupp, who wrote biographies on Max von Schillings and Eugen d'Albert. Their son Jan Raupp (1928-2007), who spelled his surname "Rawp" in Sorbian, was one of the leading Sorbian composers of the second half of the 20th century.

A selective work list

Orchestral works

From Sorbian Soil, suite WoO (1894)
On the redoubt, ouverture op. 34 (1924)
Recollection, symphonic intermezzo WoO (1925)
Three Sorbian Dances op. 77a (1931/34)
Six Sorbian Dances op. 77c (1931/34)

Chamber music

String Quartet in C minor op. 4 (1893)
Sorbian Rhapsody for violin and piano op. 63a (1921)
Four Miniatures for violin and piano op. 63b (1929)
Sorbian Dance for violin and piano op. 63c (1928)
Elegy for three violins WoO (1933)
The Prankster, Burlesque for cello and piano op. 80 (1933)
Little Chamber Septets for flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, violin, viola, violoncello op. 82a (1933)
From Sorbian Heath, 14 Pictures for string quartet op. 82c (1934)
Wendian Round Dance for violin and piano op. 88 (1937)
Divertimento for string quartet op. 89 (1942)
Signal for 4 winds WoO (1947)

Piano music

From Wendian Countryside, eight pieces op. 6 (1896)
Ten pieces (1940)
In memoriam (1947)

Works for choir

The Orphan, cantata for soloists, choir and orchestra op. 9 (1901)
Missa solemnis for choir a cappella and organ ad libitum op. 79 (1932)
War and Peace, oratorio for choir and piano WoO (1942/44)
To the Wind, a Spring Song for choir a cappella

Songs

At the Lake, terzetto for soprano, alto and tenor op. 1 (1886)
Three Songs op. 2 (1886)
Four Duets for soprano, baritone and piano op. 5 (1900)
Six Songs op. 21 (1910)
Eight Duettini for sorano and alto and piano op. 22 (1909)
The Sorbian Angel, song for soprano and violin op. 46 (1927)
33 Wendian Folk Songs for voice and piano op. 52 (1925)

Scores and CDs

New editions of Bjarnat Krawc's works have been published by Edition Roy. The scores of the works for string quartet, for violin and piano, for violoncello and piano, and for piano solo can be purchased from

www.shop.sorben.com

There you can find recordings of Krawc's works, too. The most important releases are:

- Chamber Music (3 CDs): Arcadia-Quartett, Annette Elster (soprano), Jan Paul Kussmaul (violin), Paul Rosner (violin), Ana Topalovic (violoncello), Christoph Staude (piano); Edition Roy 2012.
- Missa solemnis op. 79: Prager Philharmonischer Chor, Friedemann Böhme (conductor); Stiftung für das sorbische Volk 2003.
- 33 Wendische Volklieder op. 52: Tanja Donatec (mezzo soprano), Stefan Baumgärtel (baritone), René Speer (piano); SERVI 1999.
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