The Sonorous World of Primož Ramovš (1921-1999)


  • Ivan Klemenčič



Looking back on the composer's creative journey and work in this year of his death, we are interested in his internal development and, along with this, his artistic identity. His identity took shape in a special relation to sound, that is, its abstraction – from this comes his predominantly instrumental opus and, with it, his fundamental relation to the world. As a student of Slavko Osterc until the second world war, Ramovš received the spirit of Osterc' avant-garde practices from the thirties and Ramovš was the first to continue these practices during the critical period of the sixties. He, however, identified his mentor as a neoclassical composer even though Osterc was again oriented towards Expressionism from 1934 on; such an orientation was also true of the creative works from Ramovš' first period, even still after his studies with Alfredo Casella during the war. This post war neoclassicism was not without influence from socialist realism with its obligatory optimism. This ideological climate most likely caused a slowing down of the composer's development. Such was true during the fifties, when in the course of a long process Ramovš felt the need to redirect himself away from an objective and towards a subjective expression until, with the attained expressionism at the beginning of the sixties, he went through a serial phase including its total organization. His attendance at the »Warsaw Autumn« in 1960 showed him the way forward into the world of aleatory, into a free but controlled improvised form, into free atonality, and into the free use of dodecaphony with »telling« cores of semitone steps. Thus in 1963, he took on the posture of an extreme narrator of subjective modernism, based on continuous contrasts, and characteristic dramatics and upheavals. In this most important third creative period, he continued varying and reconstructing his musical material in more than 400 opuses. His feeling of the world was extremely spiritualized, disharmonic, and based on pure sound, which is the essence of his aesthetics, the indirect expression of a composer's mental and spiritual world. Pure and ascetic sound enabled him a pure musical development, musical narrativity, and later still with a fullness of sound fields. On the mentioned level of sound, he also reacted in a concerned and intense manner; thus, he felt the threat of the extinction of the human race at the coming of the atomic era (Simfonija 68) and he acted as a dedicated nation-conscious composer (in works dedicated to the attainment of Slovenian national independence in 1991 – Per aspera ad astra [1991] or those in remembrance of the victims of the communist holocaust in Slovenia – Simfonija Pietà [1993]). Ramovš' avant-garde breakthrough in the sixties, when a group of younger composers called Pro musica viva quickly joined him, completes itself in the following three decades in a pronounced modernism, both intensified as well as moderated, which nevertheless do not open the question of postmodernism. With his artistic posture and achievements, he thus remains one of the most important composers of the entire second half of the twentieth century in Slovenia and an artist of international renown.


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How to Cite

Klemenčič, I. (1999). The Sonorous World of Primož Ramovš (1921-1999). Musicological Annual, 35(1), 11–24.