Frida Kern

Frida Kern was a prolific Austrian composer of chamber music. Though many of her works are unpublished, all of her clarinet works have survived. She is remembered in the clarinet community for a clarinet-string quintet, two woodwind quintets, and an octet.

Frida Kern (1891 – 1988)

Frida Kern, née Seitz (b. 9 March 1891, d. 23 Dec 1988), was an Austrian composer. She was born in Vienna and grew up in Linz, studying piano with Anna Zappa, and later at the Linz Music Academy with August Göllerich.

She married Max Kern in 1909 at the age of 18, and began composing in 1911. In 1923 she entered the Vienna Academy where she studied composition with Franz Schmidt and conducting with Robert Heger. She continued her studies with Eusebius Mandyczewski and Alexander Wunderer, graduating in 1927. Kern established a women’s orchestra which toured Europe and North Africa, and in 1942 took a teaching position at the music school in Vienna. In 1960 she was honored by the Austrian Republic. She died in Linz.1, 2

Kern was an accomplished composer and professional musician in her lifetime. In 1927 she became the first woman to graduate in composition and conducting from the Akademie für Musik in Vienna.3 In 1942 she received the 2nd Culture Prize of the Upper Danube Region for her choral work, The Letters of the Fallen.5 In 1943 she began teaching music theory at the University’s Musicological Institute in Vienna, although her position there was something of a stewardship; she held the position until a man was available to take the position.6 After the war, Frida Kern returned to her life as a freelance composer.

On the occasion of her 70th birthday, the city of Linz paid tribute to her life and work in a gala concert.7 After the death of her husband in 1965, she stopped composing entirely.

Many of Kern’s works are housed in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, and digital and print copies may be made available upon request.

Kern composed four known works for clarinet: two woodwind quintets, one published (0p. 25), and one unpublished; a clarinet-string quintet, and an octet for clarinet, oboe, horn, two violins, viola, cello, and double bass. To date only one of her clarinet works, op. 25, has been recorded.

Read her biography on


Four Pieces for Woodwind Quintet, Op. 25 | 1942
Clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, horn
Purchase link (score only)

Theme and Variations for Woodwind Quintet | 1961
Clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, horn
Original manuscript housed in Vienna (link)

Clarinet-String Quintet in C Minor, op. 19 | 1933
Clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello
Original manuscript housed in Vienna (link)

Octet Op. 3/11 | 1926
Clarinet, oboe, Horn (in F), 2 violin, viola, violoncello, double bass
Original manuscript housed in Vienna

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  1. “Frida Kern”. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  2. Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers (Digitized online by GoogleBooks). Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  3. The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. United Kingdom, W.W. Norton, 1994. xxviii.
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. ibid
Publication date:

This page was last updated 3/4/2021

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