Expressionist Elements in Vojislav Vučković's Compositions


  • Marija Koren



The technical and stylistic development of Vojislav Vučković, who belongs to the generation of Serbian composers born between 1900 and 1910, the generation that studied at Prague and that, apart from traditional compositional knowledge, brought with them the wish to advance the avantgarde schoenbergian principles, falls into four phases. The first starts with the time when he finished his studies, the second is represented by the years of independent work up to a stylistic break, the third comprises works which reflect elements of this break, whereas in the fourth comes the stabilization of a new style. After his first, not yet mature, impressionist composition "Peron" (1928) Vučković, having come to Prague, reveals a more radical orientation in the piano Little Suite (1931); he gives tribute to hindemithian, objectified polyphony that does not rest on any harmonic functionalism. This antiromantic work receives its most consistent continuation in the String Quartet (1932), the chorus "Midday" (1933) and the First Symphony (1933). All three compositions can be considered a preparation for this expressionist Belgrade phase, from the last months of 1933 to the first half of 1939. It is here that his attempts at a structural synthesis of romantic and Haba's elements are most evident. For analysis, the first movement of the String Quartet was used; it is not completely athematic, and Vučković, while freely modifying a ternary form with some sonata touches, strives for expressionist qualities only in the profile of thematics. With linearity in the fore the vertical picture is rather dissonant, being more or less accidental in the flow of independent lines. It is Vučković's work after his return to Belgrade that "pure", schoenbergian dodecaphonic expressionism is attached to. In the period 1933 to 1939 he actually devoted most of his attention to musical journalism. Wishing to justify all those parametres of avantgarde music that he felt to carry potential creative possibilities of his time, Vučković set a sign of equation between progressive ideology and avantgarde means of expression; composing also in a similar way he only reaffirmed the postulates of the postwar German expressionism. He combined explosive and destructive ideas with sharply expressed tendencies of social protest against inhumanity and unsettled life. Models were at hand also in Serbian literary surrealism that, after its revolutionary period (1929–1933), had just reached the border of succumbing to the needs of revolution. Vučković now composes little but stylistically pure works within schoenbergian coordinates approximating "Die Erwartung". On the threshold of this creative stage one finds narrative choruses (Melting Steel), but as a composer at his best he shows himself in Two Songs for soprano and wind trio (1938), one of the most worthy works of Serbian prewar expressionism. Vučković's further development carries traces of haste. During the three years that were left to him he composed many works (two symphonies, a ballet, symphonic poems). However, he did not remain on the standpoint he had been defending in his theoretical works and had proved with the Two Songs and with some other compositions. Already "Ali Binak" contains elements of a break. From now the metamorphosis went quickly, without dilemas and mostly outside expressionist waters. The theoretical transformation took longer. Vučković realized that the public was not able to do what he had done, that is – to set the sign of equation between progressive ideology and contemporary expression; and on the other hand he wanted to approach and influence the public. At the moment of complete political commitment he chose a new way of bringing his social and political ideals in accord with his musical language. Compositions he writes now are stricktly speaking reactions to events around him. Stylistically they come closest to neoclassicism containing also romantic elements, as regards method they are realistic. As a theorist he had come to the conclusion that new musical realism was the most suitable stylistic framework for Serbian music in moments of social tendencies in the arts and of the revolutionary situation in politics.


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How to Cite

Koren, M. (1974). Expressionist Elements in Vojislav Vučković’s Compositions. Musicological Annual, 10(1), 48–66.