(b Vienna, 5 Dec 1901; d Vienna, 27 Jan 1969). Austrian composer and teacher. He had little formal musical training, but participated in Schoenberg’s class at the Schwarzwald School for three months in 1918–19 and was for four months a private student of Alban Berg’s. From 1920 to 1922 he studied the piano, harmony and counterpoint with Franz Schmidt at the Akademie für Music und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna. For nearly three decades afterwards, he earned his living principally as a pianist in bars and cinemas, and with leading small bands.
His first concert works, Symphony in D and Praeludium, Passacaglia und Fuge, are rooted in the Austrian symphonic tradition of the early twentieth century. He drew on his knowledge of popular music in his subsequent works: the Sinfonia ritmica (Musik in Jazz)for jazz band and orchestra, Rather Fast for jazz band and the Sonata ritmica for jazz band. His Heitere Synfonie for brass instruments and percussion and his Drei chansons on texts by Erich Kästner are conspicuous for their satirical and parodistic elements. He also composed freely atonal works, especially after returning to Vienna from Berlin in 1931. From 1932 to 1943 Jelinek made intensive study of Schoenberg’s recent music, and turned definitively to 12-note composition in 1934, completing the dodecaphonic String Quartet no.2 in 1935 and Prometheus for baritone and orchestra in 1936. From 1936 to 1947, however, Jelinek abandoned composing music for the concert hall. Under the pseudonym Hanns Elin he composed, arranged and published a number of popular songs and ‘Wienerlieder’ as well as music for operettas and films. As Hanns Jelinek he celebrated Austria’s Anschluss with Germany in 1938 with a Befreiungshumne.
Together with Hans Erich Apostel, Jelinek maintained the legacy of the Schoenberg school in post-war Vienna. In the 1950s he established himself as an important teacher of 12-note composition. He was invited to teach 12-note composition at the Darmstadt summer courses in 1952, and from 1958 to 1969 he taught 12-note composition, and the composition of film music, at the Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. His Zwölftonwerk, a nine-volume collection of piano and chamber pieces based upon a single note row, gradually reveals the compositional resources of 12-note composition. His Anleitung zur Zwölftonkomposition, the examples in which were drawn primarily from the Zwölftonwerk, was one of the first textbooks to provide systematic instruction in 12-note techniques. His Zwölftonfibel for piano contained 144 graded exercises and pieces designed to familiarize young pianists with the sounds and styles of 12-note works. Jelinek also edited a series of Libelli dodecaphonici (1961–4), which contained short works by his students for student performers. His investigations into all-interval 12-note rows led him to plan a ‘Systematization of 12-Note Rows’, which remained unfinished at his death.
His dodecaphonic compositions tend to avoid the rhythmic and contrapuntal complexities found in the music of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. Particularly characteristic are his jazz-inspired 12-note works, Three Blue Sketches for small ensemble (1956), Two Blue O’s for seven jazz instruments (1959) and the ballet Dances around the Steel Blue Rose (1956–9). He received the Preis der Stadt Wien for music in 1947 and the Oesterreichischen Staatspreis for music in 1966.
Stage: Bubi Caligula, operetta, 1947–53; The Dances around the Steel Blue Rose, ballet, op.33, 1956–9