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Gustav Jenner was Johannes Brahms’ only composition student, but his works have not received the same attention that Brahms’ have. Jenner’s output includes chamber music, piano compositions, choral works, and over 200 Lieder. He wrote two pieces for clarinet, the Sonata in G Major, op. 5 for clarinet and piano and the Trio in E-flat Major for clarinet, horn, and piano. Relatively little has been written about Jenner, especially in English, and this document begins by detailing Jenner’s life and musical training, emphasizing his studies with Brahms, who was widely known as a demanding teacher. The first chapter continues with a discussion of the genesis of his clarinet works, including the influence of Richard Mühlfeld, to whom the Sonata was dedicated. Understanding Jenner’s unique musical education and career is an important first step in interpreting his Sonata.
While Jenner’s Sonata retains some elements of Brahms’ style, and many authors have commented on the similarities between Jenner’s Sonata and Brahms’ Sonatas, op. 120, the connections are not as prominent as one might expect. Of particular interest is Jenner’s modification of traditional forms to suit his own compositional needs, which is explored in the second chapter. Also discussed is Jenner’s harmonic language, which frequently includes both Classical fifth-related keys and Romantic third-related tonalities. The third chapter explores Jenner’s melodies by examining their motivic construction and including references to similar melodies from Brahms’ Sonatas. Jenner’s use of developing variation in the first and fourth movements is also discussed, as well as its interpretive implications. Based on this analysis, suggestions for a meaningful interpretation of Jenner’s Sonata are offered throughout the second and third chapters.