The Incidental Music of Demetrij Žebre


  • Milena Židanik



Demetrij Žebre's compositional output contains also works connected with the theatre. In the years 1940–1953, the Drama House of the Slovene National Theatre in Ljubljana staged seven works for which he wrote incidental music. The research is focused on the music for two plays – Kreft's »Carniolian Comedians« and Shakespeare's »Romeo in Juliet«. The reasons for the analysis of these two pieces of instrumental music can be stated as follows: they comprise the greatest amount of survived material, which includes also instrumental parts; apart from that, these are the two pieces which have been most frequently performed. The »Carniolian Comedians« are written in the idiom of Linhart's language as well as in that of other enlightened authors. Žebre followed the basic idea of the author and adapted himself stylistically to the happening in the comedy. Clear periodisation, simple instrumentation and melodious tunes contribute to the overall atmosphere. Shakespeare's tragedy »Romeo and Juliet« offered Žebre much more freedom. Its music represents Žebre's first contribution to the field of the theatre. And, as an opera conductor, Žebre was always in close contact with the theatre. He was aware of the fact that his music was not a l'art pour l'art affair, but a contribution to the work itself. All music numbers reflect a surprisingly correct periodization. Motivic work can be followed from two-bar and four-bar phrases up to double periods. Melodies are either completely tonal or, sometimes, freely tonal due to their treatment as regards the bass. Ostinato forms in lower parts and paralel progressions are quite frequent. Added-note chords, which are functionally unquestionable, contribute to the intensification of sound. In comparison with his other, especially early, compositional production, in which Žebre followed radical trends of his time, his incidental music comes as a surprise. In the »Carniolian Comedians« he is bound by the text and historical background, whereas in Shakespeare's tragedy he is free to choose adequate means of expression. Why these means did not follow »new« tendencies in music can be explained by the fact that he ceased to compose soon after the War. Apart from that, music is only an ingredient of a theatrical work, and the composer is actually only a co-author who has to take into account his theatrical collaborators.


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How to Cite

Židanik, M. (1979). The Incidental Music of Demetrij Žebre. Musicological Annual, 15(1), 89–101.