Zenk, Ludwig, 1900-1949

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1900
Death 1949-06-16
Austrians
German, English

Biographical notes:

Ludwig Zenk (b. November 18, 1900 in Vienna; d. 1949 ) was an Austrian composer and conductor. He studied theory and composition with Anton Webern and conducting with Hermann Scherchen.

From the description of Ludwig Zenk music manuscripts, 1930-1947. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 645268536

Biographical Note

Austrian composer and conductor Ludwig Zenk was born Nov. 18, 1900, in Vienna. Beginning in 1920, he studied musicology at the University of Vienna, where he participated in a Kapellmeister course given by Anton Webern under the auspices of Arnold Schönberg’s seminar for composition. Between 1921 and 1925, Zenk studied theory and composition with Webern and became one of his first students after settling in Mödling after World War I. From 1925 to 1931, he served as Kapellmeister in Iglau, Znaim, and Meissen. Zenk renewed his studies with Webern in 1930 and later studied conducting with Hermann Scherchen from 1932-1933. He became secretary of the Austrian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (of which Webern was president) in 1933, a position he held until 1938.

Zenk worked as a private teacher and taught in the Arbeiterkonservatorium until its dissolution, alongside the Social Democratic Party of Austria, in 1934. From 1938-1948, he was musical director of the Theater in Josefstadt, where he conducted and composed incidental music for plays. With the closing of Vienna’s theaters in 1944, Zenk registered for the Army (where previously he had been refused due to a heart condition) to work for a munitions plant. A nervous ailment that had paralyzed his left hand, however, led to his conscription with the specialized Volkssturm in 1945, a corps that consisted of men unsuitable for traditional military service.

Though considered by Anton Webern to be his most gifted pupil, Ludwig Zenk has received little recognition for his work as a composer. Zenk and Webern became life-long friends due in part to their mutual love for mountaineering and gardening. Zenk was also a fine amateur photographer and captured numerous shots of Webern on hikes and expeditions. The composers' friendship was further strengthened when the encroaching Nazi regime forced many of Webern’s friends to flee the country or go into hiding. Zenk was one of the few who could remain relatively unscathed. Despite his former reputation as a radical leftist, Zenk became an ardent National Socialist and tried to convert Webern to the party's cause. Realizing his indebtedness to Jewish musicians, including Eduard Steuermann and David Josef Bach, Zenk adopted a more tempered outlook, declaring men such as Arnold Schoenberg, Karl Kraus, and Gustav Mahler "exempt by virtue of their art." He passed away just years after the collapse of the Nazi regime at the age of 49.

Throughout his career, Zenk's music achieved comparatively little popular success. In 1933, he won the Emil-Hertzka Prize for his Klaviersonate, op. 1, a work dedicated to his teacher Anton Webern and later published by Universal Edition, the organizer of the competition. The judges included Webern, Gustav Scheu, Alban Berg, Ernst Krenek, Franz Schmidt, Erwin Stein, and Egon Wellesz. So many of the 267 compositions entered that year were of such high quality that the jury divided the prize money equally among five winners. Among them were Schoenberg pupils Roberto Gerhard and Norbert von Hannenheim, Berg's disciple Julius Schloss, Pisk's student Leopold Spinner, and Zenk himself. In 1947, Zenk won second prize in the Lied-Komposition category of the Österreichischer Musikwettbewerb, organized by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, for his Trakl Lieder, op. 9, of which nos. 1-5 were submitted for the competition.

From the guide to the Ludwig Zenk Music Manuscripts, 1930-1947, (Music Division Library of Congress)

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