Slavko Osterc and His Time


  • Katarina Bedina



The celebration of the anniversaries of Slovene composers is generally embarassing because we (unfortunately) rarely celebrate them and because we are aware that the person in whose honour the celebration is held will be after a short time forgotten again. All the same we have decided to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Slavko Osterc because among the persons contributing a paper we have obtained some from the youngest generation of Slovene musicologists, who may set up an at least slightly different mirror to this significant personality and composer, specifically from the viewpoint of the modem alternative in music and in the Universum of the new-age addiction to sound experienced by young people throughout the world, which at first glance has nothing in common with Osterc' s creative motive according to which everything grows old the very moment it has been done. The celebration of this anniversary seems in order also because not to this day have been adequately interpreted either Osterc as a special kind of composer of the Slovene ground or his historical period. The present contribution opens up some points which are intended towards a better understanding of certain contradictions surrounding his personality and his work. The author outlines the general musical context in the Slovene music during his lifetime and in comparative terms relates it to the second and most important composer from the period of twentieth century classics, to Marij Kogoj. This is followed by an account of the considerable difference in their views relating to music which precluded a development of interests they would have as composers. The Slovene public first heard of Slavko Osterc (1895-1941) in 1922, when he worked as a teacher, in music he was self-taught, but exceptionally talented and therefore he was sent to Prague (to Hába's school) for solid musical education. From the very beginning his nature repelled against the would-be Romantic effeminacy and therefore he readily set up contacts with everything that passed as modern. With great enthusiasm he started (from 1927 onwards) to modernize the Slovene musical life in all directions: he taught composition, wrote reviews and articles, making splendid propaganda for the contemporary musical view. At first he was met with great opposition, yet acclaim received abroad (performances of his works, membership in SIMC) served to strengthen his position. Through steadfast will and hard work he was overcoming one difficulty after another until he had arrived at a camp of like-minded people whom he had brought up himself and was sending to Prague for further specialisation in modern music. This camp would probably have given rise to the development of Osterc' s school in Ljubljana; this, however, was prevented by the master' s death and the outbreak of World War II immediately after it. But Osterc' s camp or school was envisaged differently by those who had made it possible for him to study in Prague. They expected of him a belated national school, which other Slavonic nations had attained in the 19th century. But it was to happen differently: his compositions and the compositions by his pupils started to tell the world (above all at the SIMC festivals) that Slovenia had already vigorously worked itself out of the provincial anonymousness in the technique and style, in keeping with the spirit of the time. Osterc's own compositional output was also in itself a complete novelty in expression in Slovenia. He was gifted with genuine humour, had a great sense of irony that was on occasions passing into sarcasm; but, on the other hand, with poetics which is not reminiscent of anybody else - hence it continues to be not wholly clear: where did Osterc come from?


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1. 12. 1995




How to Cite

Bedina, K. (1995). Slavko Osterc and His Time. Musicological Annual, 31(1), 5-10.