Journal “Czech Music” Volume 15 (Abstract)
Contents of this page
Dvořák and the Symphony
by Jan Smaczny
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 15 No. 1 (1989), pp. 6 – 12]
Somewhat against the mid-nineteenth century domestic trend of composing operas as an expression of Czech nationalism, Dvořák wrote his first symphony in 1865. His first two symphonies suggest he had not yet got the measure of the style. There was a huge leap in mastery of this style in the third symphony. This and the fourth symphony display balance between broader European classical and romantic traditions. In the fifth symphony Dvořák uses stronger Czech colouring. By the time of the sixth Dvořák had become a major international figure. Though some have seen the sixth and seventh symphonies as written in the shadow of Brahms, the influence is more likely to have been the other way round. The eighth symphony successfully harnesses seemingly spontaneous lyricism in an ingeniously constructed symphonic mould. The ninth symphony is formally more correct. In their variety of styles the symphonies reflect Dvořák’s musical concerns at various stages in his career.
Antonín Rejcha’s Music for Wind Instruments
by Michael Bryant
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 15 No. 1 (1989), pp. 13 – 22]
Following formative musical experiences in Bonn, Hamburg and Vienna, including contacts with Haydn and Beethoven, Rejcha became one of the most important émigré Czech musicians of his day. Returning to Paris in 1808, he was esteemed not only as a composer, but as a teacher, and writer of textbooks of musical theory. Eminent among Rejcha’s compositions were the twenty-five wind quintets, played by and dependant upon the skills of the best wind players in Paris. Infrequently performed over the years, these magnificent quintets and other works of Rejcha have been rescued in the CD era, the Albert Schweitzer Quintet having issued complete recordings on the CPO label.
The Notion of a Czech National Opera
by Alena Němcová
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 15 No. 1 (1989), pp.23 – 29
The return of Smetana to Prague in the 1860s coincided with a competition for the best new historical or comic opera based on Czech themes, and elements of Czech folk music. Smetana responded by composing Braniboři v Čechách (The Brandenburgers in Bohemia). Though it won the prize, some argued it was not sufficiently based on domestic folk music, an issue redressed in Smetana’s next opera, Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride), in which he included Czech dances. The Czech national opera style which followed built on Smetana’s achievements, Dvořák’s Tvrdé palice (The Stubborn Lovers) and Šelma sedlák (The Scheming Farmer/The Cunning Peasant) being set in Czech villages, and Čert a Káča (The Devil and Kate) being based on an Erben ballad. Janáček’s early opera Počátek románu (The Beginning of a Romance) was hailed by patriotic opinion as the first Moravian national opera, but it failed and was discounted by the composer himself for its over-obvious use of folk tunes. Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa) reflected a new approach to folk music, a synthesis of folklore elements in a genuinely mature and creative musical style.
Janáček – The Campaigning Composer
by Karel Janovický
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 15 No. 2 (1989), pp. 17 – 22]
The distinction in perceptions of the later and earlier Janáček as on the one hand the ‘great opera composer’ and on the other as the ‘struggling provincial’ is inaccurate: both elements co-existed throughout his life. At all times his composing had an ulterior motive. This often reflected a campaigning purpose, not least for the Czech cause in Brno, where Czech inhabitants were outnumbered by German. There was also a Panslavist element in his music, which drew upon Russian themes. The Glagolitic Mass was based on an old Slavonic texts. From the close connections between Janáček’s personal life and his music he took as his cue Czech language and translated this into his musical notation. Similarly he imitated the sounds of nature in his music.
An Introduction to Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová
by Alena Němcová
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 15 No. 2 (1989), pp.23 – 29]
Káťa Kabanová was the starting point of Janáček’s most creative period, and the first opera he composed after the inauguration of Czechoslovakia. By now his understanding of Moravian folk music and investigation of speech intonation was integrated into his compositional and dramatic style. The choice of subject, the story of a tragic marriage, was influenced both by his newly found love for young Kamila Stösslová, and also by his interest wider Slavonic culture. Janáček was fascinated by this Russian story depicting the conflict between the guilty emotions of a suffering wife and the hypocritical morality of family and rural society around her. In expressing the psychology of the characters in the opera, Janáček demonstrates a mastery of musical invention, composing lyrical melodies of great beauty, with motifs illustrating precisely the psychological situation of the opera’s characters.
The Versions of Janáček’s Violin Sonata
by Alena Němcová
Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 15 No. 2 (1989), pp.30 – 34
As a student Janáček had twice before worked on writing violin sonatas. The one which remains today was his third attempt, and has a special position in his output, influenced by tensions in his own musical development and the crisis of the outbreak of World War One. Its composition extended over seven years, with the four movements of the original version, composed in 1914, differing substantially from the final one, the first performance of which took place in Brno in 1922. As with Kát’a Kabanová, to which the Violin Sonata has some connections, Janáček’s musical ideas were again associated with his interest in things Russian, and the possibility of a Russian invasion of Moravia at the beginning of World War One.