Journal “Czech Music” Volume 17 No. 2 (Abstract)
Contents of this page
- The Naïve Composer and the Sophisticated Professor (Dvořák & Alfred Einstein)
- Prague, Mozart and his Czech Contemporaries
- Vodník in Tale and Opera: The Story of a Czech Spirit
- Desperately Seeking Julietta (Martinů)
- The Farmer’s Woman (Gazdina Roba, Preissová, Janáček & Foerster)
- Sir Thomas Beecham and Antonín Dvořák
The Naïve Composer and the Sophisticated Professor
by Jaroslav Mihule
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 17, No.2 (1992), pp. 3-7.]
Alfred Einstein’s study, Music in the Romantic Era, displays many misconceptions about Czech music, and that of Dvořák in particular. The author’s contention that Dvořák’s compositions belonged to a category of ‘absolute’ rather than ‘romantic’ or ‘programme’ music is questioned, as also are the author‚s stereotypes of Dvořák as ‘naïve’, ‘guileless’, and lacking literary taste and intellectual quality, in which context his music is compared unfavourably with that of Brahms. While complimentary about some aspects of Dvořák’s music, Einstein shocks by asserting that his best work is to be found in his songs and choruses. Finally, his claim that Dvořák did not leave behind a musical legacy of younger composers is fiercely denied.
Prague, Mozart and his Czech Contemporaries
by Zdenka Pilková
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 17, No.2 (1992), pp. 7-20.]
Mozart was regularly in contact with composers from the Czech lands. The Czech musicians with the greatest influence on Mozart were Jiří Benda and Mysliveček, but other acquaintances included Fiala, the Dušeks, Vaňhal, Vranický, and others, all of whose work he admired. He was on less friendly terms, however, with Koželuh. Mozart’s music was already popular in Prague prior to the first of his four visits. The première of Don Giovanni was received with great enthusiasm. Hundreds of arrangements of excerpts from his operas spread Mozart’s music throughout the Czech lands, continuing after his death. His popularity also resulted from affinities between his musical style and that of pre-existing Czech composers.
Vodník in Tale and Opera: The Story of a Czech Spirit
by Karel Janovický
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 17, No.2 (1992), pp. 21-32.]
The Czech preoccupation with the vodník or water sprite is part of a wider responsiveness to rivers, nymphs and water demons in Slav folklore. The particular Czech slant is anthropomorphic, and was an aspect of the movement to enhance the status of Czech culture. Special credit is due to K.J. Erben for collecting and recording this culture, and for his publications of folk ballads, nursery rhymes, myths and legends. Dvořák was compulsively drawn to his Kytice collection in his The Spectre’s Bride and four late symphonic poems, while Rusalka, though based on Kvapil and not Erben, was similarly inspired. Fibich set Erben’s Vodník as a melodrama and it lives on in Novák’s opera setting of Jirásek’s play Lucerna.
Desperately Seeking Julietta
by Patrick Lambert
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 17, No.2 (1992), pp. 33-40.]
Julietta can be considered as the key work in Martinů’s output. The composer identified himself with the main character Michel, the travelling book-seller, the urban setting of the opera with his home town Polička, and the heroine with Vítěslava Kapralová. The so-called Julietta chords and the fantasy element of the opera were repeatedly revisited in Martinů’s later work. They can be found, for example, in his first and sixth symphonies, the Piano Concerto No. 4, the ballet Špaliček, in The Opening of the Wells, and in The Greek Passion. Towards the end of his life, the chords came to symbolise an ‘unspoken, unattainable ideal’ of almost religious intensity for the composer, reflecting his absorption with ‘the often irrational world of the imagination’.
The Farmer’s Woman
by Václav Pinkava
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 17, No.2 (1992), pp. 40-44.]
Gazdina Roba, a rustic drama by Preissová, has frequently been mentioned by musicologists in its connection with Janáček’s Jenůfa, and Foerster’s Eva. Usually rendered in English as ‘The Farmer’s Woman” or ‘The Farm Manager’s Woman’, these are mis-translations, based on an imperfect grasp of complicated Czech grammar, and also of regional differences in meaning. The actual connotation is of a lower status female, so that a more accurate title would use a term such as ‘wench’ rather than ‘woman’, i.e. someone not the boss’s wedded wife.
Karel Janovický adds—
In translations by various English musicologists of gazda and gazdina, the terms ‘maid’, ‘housewife’ and ‘wench’ have all been applied. But though a more accurate translation of ‘Gazdina Roba’ might well refer to ‘Mistress/Servant Girl’, this would not reflect the true gist of the story in question, and the title The Farmer’s Woman is more generally acceptable in this sense.
Sir Thomas Beecham and Antonín Dvořák
by Graham Melville-Mason
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 17, No.2 (1992), pp. 44-48.]
Beecham had a special affection for Czech music. This was specially the case with Dvořák and Smetana, whose works he performed frequently. His interpretations of these composers were widely praised, not least by Czech musicians. For Beecham, Dvořák’s most popular compositions, on the evidence of his programming and recordings, were the Symphony No. 8, the Symphonic Variations, the Cello Concerto (No. 2), Carnaval Overture, Slavonic Rhapsody No. 3, and the Stabat Mater. Less favoured by Sir Thomas, surprisingly, were the Slavonic Dances.