An Outline of the Life of Croatia's Musician Ivo Prišlin (1902–1941) as a Composer

  • Lovro Županović

Abstract

Ivo Prišlin ( 1902–1941) belongs to that group of Croatia 's composers who were not only prevented from expressing themselves fully as creative writers but were also driven into total oblivion together with their musical output by their untimely deaths. Recently, Prišlin 's output has been brought back to the light of day, and the present paper is a first attempt at presenting its characteristics and its meaning for the musical art in Croatia and elsewhere.
(1) Born in Zagreb where he finished school (primary school, classics-programme secondary school) and completed his studies (composition with Blagaje Bersa), Prišlin was led by the circumstances he had found himself in to choose the so-called "province" (Šibenik, Dubrovnik, Knin) as the place of his activities asa composer, a conductor, a pianist, a teacher and, to a minor degree, a writer. He stayed there from 1934 till the time of his death. He wrote music intensively from 1927 to (about) 1932, and only to a limited degree at Šibenik and Dubrovnik, to bring his total production to a synthesis in his 2nd symphony in this latter town as an indication of the course he might by all appearances have taken after the Second World War (had he lived to see it end), the course which could have brought him to the ranks of Croatia's present-day composers of a very radical musical expression.
(2) A great lover of his nation and nature (the 4 movements of his 2nd symphony are entitled Prelude-Mountains-Pastoral-Glaciers), Prišlin the composer left only a small number of works, especially so if only those are considered that are both finished and available today (6 altogether: Rondo a capriccio, 2 sonatas for piano, Pastoral for 3 instruments, and his Symphony No. 2). Formally created in fairly free music forms (cf. schematic analyses in notes 29–31), these pieces are almost invariably written within the bounds of exceedingly extended tonality with a rich use of fourth chords, sometimes verging on atonality. On the other hand, the thematic construction of musical thoughts is strongly saturated with modality (Aeolian, Dorian, and Mixolydian modes; cf. score exx. 2–4), which results in heterogeneity of style in Prišlin's compositions. This, again, indicates that Prišlin-the-composer's primary aim was to create as peculiar (subtle, or ecstatic) a sound as possible, a sound rich in high notes and fourth chords. His obsession with this kind of sound is evident in its most marked form in his 2nd symphony, with his treatment of piano style so untypical of Croatia 's music then being evidently a result of Prišlin 's positive orchestration-mindedness.
(3) Finding inspiration as a composer in the art of Cl. Debussy, Al. Skryabin and S. Prokofiev, Prišlin belongs to that group of Croatia 's inter-war composers whose sole representative has long, till only recenlty, been Božidar Kunc. Recent musicological research has first added Stanislav Preprek and Dragan Plamenac to this group (both active as composers to about 1925), and now Ivo Prišlin has also been found as belonging to it (only theoretically tor the time being, of course, since his works have not been performed yet). However, while Plamenac and Preprek continued as members of the „non-national“ current, Kunc and Prišlin would strive to bring to reality Bartók's ideal of "imaginary folklore". Kunc tried to do so through his filigree-patterned restraint, and Prišlin through the exclamatoriness (euphoria) of his definitely Romantic temperament. On account of this, the syntagma "impressionistic expressionist" (or vice versa) may be applied to him (as well as to Preprek and Plamenac, which puts Prišlin in a position close to that of these two composers). On the other hand, Prišlin remains closely related to Kunc through the saturation of his musical thoughts with markedly expressed moods of the old ways.

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Published
1989-12-01
How to Cite
ŽupanovićL. (1989). An Outline of the Life of Croatia’s Musician Ivo Prišlin (1902–1941) as a Composer. Musicological Annual, 25(1), 167-186. https://doi.org/10.4312/mz.25.1.167-186
Section
Articles