(b Noisy, France, 26 July 1892; d Börnsen, nr Bergedorf, 17 Dec 1982). German composer of Spanish and French origin. He was the son of Esteban Jarnach, a noted Spanish sculptor. At the age of 15 Jarnach moved to Paris, where he studied the piano with Risler and composition with Lavignac. When World War I broke out, he emigrated to Zürich, where he came in close contact with Busoni, who advised him privately on his compositions, and convinced the Zürich Conservatory to hire Jarnach to teach counterpoint in 1918. In 1921 Jarnach left his position in Zürich and moved to Berlin, motivated by the desire to remain close to Busoni. There he became actively involved in the avant garde, joining the Novembergruppe and the German Section of the ISCM, and co-directing the Melos Gesellschaft with Tiessen after 1923. From 1925 to 1927 he worked as a music critic for the Berliner Böser-Courier and taught several students privately, including Weill. In 1927 he was appointed professor of composition at the Musikhochschule in Cologne, where he taught until 1949. Among his students were Wand and B.A. Zimmermann. Jarnach became a German citizen in 1931, and continued to teach in Cologne throughout the period of Nazi dictatorship, but was not a supporter of the regime. At this time he composed little, sporadically recommending compositions to the Reichs-Rundfunk and having his works performed only rarely, isolating himself from the surrounding political events. In 1949 he became director of the newly established Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Hamburg, a position he held until 1959. He continued to teach there until 1970. Jarnach received much official recognition as an artist, becoming a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, and being awarded the Berliner Kunstpreis (1955), the Hamburg Bach Prize (1957, with Blacher), the Hamburg Brahms Medal (1958) and the Grosses Verdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1959).
Jarnach’s early compositions were influenced by late 19th-century French musical and literary culture. His extensive unpublished early songs show the marked influence of Debussy, and as early as 1910 he began composing lieder, influenced by Strauss, Wolf and Schubert. In the 1920s Jarnach became better known for his transparent, contrapuntal chamber works, especially the Sonatine op.12, the String Quintet op.10 (which caused a sensation at Donaueschingen in 1921) and the String Quartet op.16, which was performed and recorded by Hindemith’s Amar Quartet. These works are characterized by atonal harmony, linear counterpoint, strict forms and a melancholy tone. They reflect not only Jarnach’s allegiance to Busoni’s teachings of Junge Klassizität but also his study of Beethoven’s late quartets and Schoenberg’s atonal chamber works. Jarnach thereafter began to depart from Busoni’s teachings, however, as can be seen in his highly charged, Romantic Fünf Gesänge op.15, his rhapsodic Piano Sonatina op.18 (Romancero I) and the French-influenced Drei Klavierstücke op.17. After 1937 Jarnach’s output diminished considerably, and his most noted achievements after this date are his classicist Musik mit Mozart (variations on themes from Mozart’s Piano Trio k542 and String Quintet k593), Das Amrumer Tagebuch op.30 and Musik zum Gedächtnis der Einsamen, a movement for string quartet composed on the occasion of Schoenberg’s death.