Journal “Czech Music” Volume 19 (Abstract)
Contents of this page
Dvořák and Harmonic Experiment
by Jan Smaczny
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 30-43]
Many studies of Dvořák’s composing style have focused on melody, and on rhythm, but only incidentally on harmony. As a result, the composer’s harmonic experimentation has not been given sufficient attention. One problem is that Dvořák’s best known works have not necessarily been the most experimental harmonically. Some of his more audacious ventures appeared in compositions written in his twenties and thirties, yet were not so apparent in his more celebrated works of the 1890s. They do, however, reappear in Dvořák’s final opera, Armida, in which harmonies which offend conventional rules of good practice are to be found.
Dvořák’s Suite Op. 98 and Humoresques Op. 101 for Pianoforte: American or Bohemian?
by Daniela Philippi
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 43-58]
In his piano music, Dvořák preferred smaller forms, though these included extended sets of pieces, for example, five in the Suite (i.e. the piano version), and eight in the Humoresques. Both works are varied in compositional technique and in spirit. Both were composed in 1894, the former in New York, while the latter originated in Vysoká. The question arises whether they are typically American. Dvořák himself regarded reducing the number of notes used, and clear and simple melodies as reflecting an American style. But these characteristics are also found in earlier works considered to be typically Bohemian. Increasing use of such elements in his American period, however, represented those of indigenous music he regarded as compatible with his own personal style.
Dvořák and the Clarinet: A Curious Note
by Graham Melville-Mason
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 58-61]
Though Dvořák wrote gloriously for wind instruments, a clarinet quintet he composed in the late 1860s was one of the works he almost certainly destroyed. In 1894, he was invited by the Belgian clarinet player Gustav Poncelet to write a piece for the large clarinet ensemble (more than 25 clarinets and basset horns) he had formed and for which he had adapted the music of other great composers. No work for such a combination was written by Dvořák, however, and, though he normally replied to such invitations, no response to Poncelet’s request has been discovered.
Mahler and Smetana: Significant Influences or Accidental Parallels?
by Donald Mitchell
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 62-75]
Mahler was not consistently enthusiastic about Smetana’s music, though he conducted Dalibor successfully in Vienna, and this and other Smetana operas on many occasions, three of them at Hamburg in 1894 and 1895. A number of comparisons suggest a creative relationship between Smetana and Mahler which has yet to be fully explored. A particularly telling example of the legacy is the similarity between the lullabies in The Kiss and Der Schilwache Nachtlied from Das Knaben Wunderhorn. Other parallels are suggested between the Smuggler’s Chorus from The Kiss and Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, and between Má Vlast and Mahler’s 6th Symphony.
Mahler and the Czechs
by Karel Janovický
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 76-87]
Mahler was a keen supporter of fellow composers from the Czech lands, including Smetana, Dvořák and Suk. He was also a friend of Foerster. While Mahler’s upbringing was German, his early years were suffused by Czech language, folklore and music, at a time of an upsurge in Czech nationalism. Though his works were regularly played in Prague, Mahler’s music was subject to criticism by certain Czech writers. Another link between Mahler and Czech culture was the little recognised importance on both of the influence of the Sezession (Art Nouveau) movement, particularly vigorous in the architecture of Vienna and Prague.
The Will of Antonín Kammel
by Zdeňka Pilková and Sylva Šimsová
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 87-94]
Kammel is one of the few eighteenth century composers from the Czech lands whose will survives, which is a valuable source for the study of his life in London, where he settled in the 1760s, and his music. Kammel was a successful composer of instrumental works. Most were published between 1770 and 1777, in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Den Haag and Berlin, and were in the classical style of J.C. Bach and early Haydn. His will suggests his music enabled his family to live in comfort, his bequests taking good care of his wife and four surviving children.
The Imaginary Staircase: Martinů’s Mysterious Accident
by Michael Henderson
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 94-116]
In June 1946 Martinů’s reputation in the United States was high. Appointed as Professor of Composition at Tanglewood, he had also been offered an academic post in Prague. Then on a tragic night in July, Martinů mysteriously fell from the balcony of his Tanglewood summer school residence, fracturing his skull. But why? From late 1945 Martinů had increasingly been filled with self-doubt. His mother and his closest friend in Czechoslovakia had died. The politicisation of the cultural life of Prague seriously disturbed him. Combined with guilt over an ongoing affair with an American music student, it may have been that all these issues were preying on his mind when he stepped on to an ‘imaginary’ staircase from his balcony. Even by June 1947 Martinů was unfit to return to his homeland, though his appointment to Prague Conservatory had been confirmed. The Communist seizure of power in 1948 finally denied Martinů the possibility of returning.
Zdeněk Fibich: Master of Stage Melodrama and Lyric Miniature
by Jaroslav Jiránek
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 117-135]
Far from adverse criticism of him as an imitative and ‘belated romanticist’ being justified, Fibich was an original, creating a distinctive Czech late nineteenth-century romantic sound. His greatest contribution to Czech music lay in his stage melodramas and lyrical piano miniatures. Fibich wrote six concert melodramas, and a cycle of three full-length stage melodramas in Hippodamia. The linkage of spoken words and music demanded special methods of musico-dramatic composition, and here he achieved a unique artistic synthesis. By contrast, in his piano miniatures, Fibich demonstrated his preoccupation with real-world romanticism in the 376 pieces in his piano series Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences, portraying the emotions of his own love life. While at heart a late nineteenth-century romanticist, Fibich was also innovative, offering foretastes of impressionism and music related to the secessionist movement.
Wrestling with an Angel: Josef Suk and “Asrael”
by Fred O’Callaghan
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 136-144]
Suk’s membership of the Bohemian Quartet and his work as a composer were closely interlocked at the time when, on tour, he heard of Dvořák’s death. Later that year Suk embarked on a major orchestral tribute to his mentor, which became the Asrael Symphony. The personal catastrophe of his wife Otilka’s subsequent premature death interrupted work on the symphony, to be resumed when Suk conceived the idea of dedicating a movement to her memory. The symphony helped Suk to come to terms with his loss, but was by no means merely a great outpouring of grief, the final optimistic C major conclusion representing rather‚ in the composer’s own words, “tears of comfort, ennobling uplifting tears”.
Austro-Germanic Elements in the Musical Career of Josef Bohuslav Foerster
by Voon Shih Hui
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 19 (1995-6), pp. 144-159]
Foerster’s musical development was conservative rather than and revolutionary. He was influenced by the romanticism of Schumann and Grieg, and had affinities with Bruckner, the latter in part attributable to shared religious convictions and the influence of organ playing. But the uneven quality of Foerster’s extensive output, with tendencies to blandness and repetitiveness have seriously limited his popularity. Later scores, however, such as the opulent Cyrano de Bergerac, demonstrated wider Austro-Germanic literary and philosophic stimuli. Unlike Mahler and Bruckner, however, Foerster tended to allow literary elements to obscure musical substance. On his return to Prague in 1919, he shed some of these external influences and evolved a more personal Czech style, meriting a more positive appreciation of his output.