In Tune > Arts > Musicians and Artists: Apostel and Kokoschka
by Maureen Buja | April 7th, 2019

standard Musicians and Artists: Apostel and Kokoschka

Kokoschka: Karl Maria Swoboda (1912)

Kokoschka: Karl Maria Swoboda (1912)

The Viennese art historian Karl Swoboda (1889-1977) sponsored concerts at his home in 1920. One of those present was the artist Oskar Kokoschka. As he listened, he drew 20 chalk portraits of two women in the audience, one of whom was Kamilla Swoboda, wife of Karl. In 1921, 10 of the images were issued as a portfolio called Variationen über ein Thema.

We are faced with a conundrum – Kokoschka has given us the listener’s reactions but to music that we can no longer hear. We can only imagine what music was actually played at the concert in 1920.

In 1928, the composer Hans Erick Apostel answered this problem with his Zehn Variationen über ein eigenes Thema (nach der Mappe « Variationen über ein Thema » von O. Kokoschka) (10 Variation’s on a Theme, after the portfolio “Variations on a Theme” by O. Kokoschka). He sent them to the artist, who thanked him and who told him that the work ‘had received well-deserved applause.’

Apostel took the implied music and the psychological effect this had on the women in the images and worked backward to create the music that he thought they were listening to. He wrote, for the unheard concert, music that combined both the tonal language of pure Viennese classicism with a heightened expressionist style. We have Viennese tonality with chromaticism, classical pianism with explorations of the various registers of the piano, and get, in the end, a very modernist work.

Apostel: Variationen nach einer Kokoschka-Mappe, Op. 1: Thema: Andantino (Thérèse Malengreau, piano)
 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 1 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 1 (1921)

Variation 1: Un poco mosso

 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 2 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 2 (1921)

Variation 2: Andante semplice

 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 3 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 3 (1921)

Variation 3: Vivace giocoso e lesto

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 4 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 4 (1921)

Variation 4: Moderato, sostenuto e dolce

 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 5 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 5 (1921)

Variation 5: Marcia grave e tragico

 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 6 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 6 (1921)

Variation 6: Vivace

 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 7 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 7 (1921)

Variation 7: Allegro furioso

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 8 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 8 (1921)

Variation 8: Allegro con fuoco

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 9 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 9 (1921)

Variation 9: Andante sostenuto

 Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 10 (1921)

Kokoschka: Variationen über ein Thema: No. 10 (1921)

Variation 10: Vivace furioso

It is, as always, up to the listener and art viewer to decide if Apostel captured Kokoshka’s intentions. In any case, the listeners in the images seem to have all been particularly attentive, listening with cocked head and often in pensive positions.

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