Journal “Czech Music” Volume 21 (Abstract)
Contents of this page
The Dvořák Society: The Early Years
by Mark Todd
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 37-78]
The Dvořák Society of Great Britain was inaugurated in March 1974. A Library, Journal and Record Service were established, and a complete catalogue of Dvořák’s works was prepared. Recitals of Czech music and visits to Czechoslovakia were promoted. During the 1970s and early 1980s many problems including financial, surfaced. The founder of the Society, Ian Trufitt, was tragically killed in a road accident in 1976. Ian Watt, Editor of the Journal, became Chairman, followed by Gordon Dunkerley. The Journal expanded as did the Society’s lecture programme. Another personnel crisis brewed in the late 1980s. A new Committee was elected in 1987 under the Chairmanship of Graham Melville-Mason. Since then the Society has gone from strength to strength, with over 700 enrolled members by the turn of the millennium, contributing increasingly to Czech musical charities.
Battling with the Missing Three Bars in the Largo of Martinů’s Symphony No. 4 (1945)
by Sharon Choa
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 79-106]
Even though Martinů was no pianist, the instrument appears in many of his works in new sound combinations, as in five of his six symphonies. Unlike other composers, however, his use of the piano is uniquely integrated into the orchestral texture, even though he faced difficulties in deploying piano sonorities, as illustrated in the Largo of the 4th Symphony. Here there is debate over why the composer cut three bars of piano music from the score of this movement: cuts which seem to distort the thematic, tonal and expressive logic. It may be because they appeared as a piano solo, which may have led some to perceive as inappropriate in a symphony.
The Moravian Contribution to Czech Music
by Antonín Tučapský
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 107-119]
The most important Moravian influence on Czech Music relates to its distinctive folk songs and dances, very different from those of Bohemia, Moravia forming a major cultural boundary between western and eastern Europe. There are also pronounced differences within Moravia, reflective of geographical and cultural distinctions within the region. To the west, folk art has been strongly Czech influenced, but it is that of the east that has particularly affected Czech composers. Apart from love, there are no common themes as between Bohemian and Moravian songs. While the former may celebrate beer, the latter celebrate wine. There are also major differences in balance of words and tunes, in rhythm, phrasing and form, harmonic content, and modal tunes. The frequent use of the latter, so much part of Janáček’s music, is the main contribution of Moravia to Czech music.
On the Overgrown Trail of Janáček’s Lyricist
by Karel Janovický
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 120-122]
That a discredited railway official, Ozef Kalda, was the author of the verses set by Janáček in his The Diary of one who Disappeared, was revealed as late as 1977. Kalda hid his authorship of The Diary behind the pretence that it was the work of an unnamed ‘decent and sedulous youth’. The letter in which this claim was made was discovered by an amateur historian and biologist who passed it on to a literary expert who found diagnostic expressions and turns of phrase that Kalda regularly used in his writings. The key to the success of Janáček’s setting lay in his use of speech melodies, responsible also for the enduring appeal of in his operas.
Dvořák in Melbourne 1885 – 1888
by Janice Stockigt
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 123-126]
The enthusiasm of the British musical press for Dvořák’s music, as expressed in the Musical Times, whetted the appetite of Melbourne readers of that journal. The works played there between 1885 and 1888 were precisely those which had created such a favourable impression in Britain: the Stabat Mater; the 6th Symphony; The Spectre’s Bride; and the first series of Slavonic Dances. The response in Melbourne was similarly approving, one critic pronouncing Dvořák “the greatest living composer”. Enthusiasm came to a standstill by the end of the decade, and no performances of Dvořák’s music are recorded in Melbourne in the 1890s. The reason may have been changes in musical taste, financial constraints, or the inadequacies of earlier performances.
Czech and Moravian Court and Household Orchestras from the 17th to 19th Centuries
by Zdeňka Pilková
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 127-132]
Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the dispersal of aristocratic residences led to many noblemen and church dignitaries of Bohemia and Moravia establishing their own musical ensembles to play at religious or social events. The expense of these was reduced by hiring retainers who could fulfil dual roles of servants and musicians, as local musicians could generally be hired and rates of pay kept low. There were great differences in size and standards of performance. Ensembles became smaller in the late eighteenth century and the tradition of harmoniemusik was established. Some of these establishments collected and handed down musical materials of the greatest importance. One of the finest of the establishments musically was Kroměříž, where a library of 1,600 works in the orchestra’s repertoire has survived.
Vítězslava Kaprálová: A Remarkable Voice in Twentieth-century Czech Music
by Eugene Gates and Karla Hartl
Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 133-154
Entering Brno Conservatory at the age of fifteen, and later Prague, Vítězslava Kaprálová in 1937 moved on to Paris on a French government scholarship. Here she studied composition privately with Bohuslav Martinů. Following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, she decided to live in exile. Marrying Jiří Mucha in April 1940, she tragically died from tuberculosis in Montpellier two months later, aged 25. Her creative output consisted of 25 works with opus numbers, plus other compositions. The musical relationship Martinů with was one of mutual collaboration but, being of an independent disposition, she increasingly developed her own voice as a composer. Their intimate but problematic relationship inspired a number of works of both. Her death cut short the work of a remarkable young composer.
A “Fantastic learning Experience” in Composing for String Orchestra: Martinů’s Interventions in Vítězslava Kaprálová’s Partita
by Aleš Březina
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 155-174]
Martinů considered that there was a “special technique” in writing for string orchestra, and was unusually interventionist in influencing Kaprálová’s Partita for String Orchestra. Kaprálová wrote of him tormenting her “quite terribly but it is a fantastic learning experience.” His advice involved her changing her style from earlier German late-romanticism to a French form of neo-classicism, reflecting in turn the influence of Roussel on Martinů’s own music. In the Partita she used the piano as an orchestral instrument for the first time, as Martinů already had done. In some cases excerpts composed by him were incorporated in Kaprálová’s fair copy of the Partita.
Vítězslava Kaprálová and Jan Novák: Two of Martinů’s Moravian Pupils
by Alena Němcová
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 174-180]
Martinů’s only Czech pupils, Vítězslava Kaprálová and Jan Novák, were Moravian. Kaprálová had previously studied with Vítězslav Novák in Prague, and had already shown her remarkable composing talent (in, for example, the Military Sinfonietta and song cycles). Martinů identified weak points in Kaprálová’s orchestration and intervened in a detailed way in numerous revisions of her Partita, Op. 20. Jan Novák studied with Martinů at Tanglewood in 1947, bringing with him compositions reflecting his interest in Latin subjects. He returned home early in 1948 having been shocked by Martinů into fundamental changes to his composing style. A new vocal style combined with the Latin declamation became the essence of his musical language. Fleeing Czechoslovakia in 1968 and settling in Germany, Novák’s later works reveal some lessening of Martinů’s influence.
The Dramatic Style of Smetana’s Operas
by Jaroslav Jiránek
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 181-194]
Smetana is one of a number of nineteenth-century composers whose operas were potent forces in shaping an emotional and social awareness of emergent national identities after long periods of suppression of democratic aspirations. Stimulated by the operas of Gluck, Mozart and Wagner, Smetana forged his own style. He concentrated exclusively on Czech themes, sung in Czech. Only the unfinished Viola, based on Shakespeare, was an exception to this rule. The operas range from heroic historical subjects to the sparkling humour of those rooted in contemporary village life. In these he conveyed vivid images of the Czechs in every day life situations, and in his historical operas (and in Má Vlast) a model of Czech statehood in the past, present and for the future.
Karel Husa: an Eightieth Birthday Tribute
by Jan Ledeč
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 195-214]
After a thorough grounding in turn at the Prague Conservatory, Husa studied in Paris from 1946-1951, but refused to return home after the Communist coup of 1948. In consequence his music was banned in Czechoslovakia for forty years. From Paris, he moved in 1954 to a post at Cornell University. His best known work, Music for Prague 1968, is a tribute to his home city and a protest against the Russian invasion of that year. Though much of his music is experimental, Husa has always been inspired by folk song from his homeland, and by fundamental human concerns. Following the ‘velvet revolution’ of 1989, Husa was able to return to the Czech Republic and his music was once again heard there. There are many recordings of his works, especially American, but his music has yet to establish itself with British audiences.
A Composer Discovered: Choral Music of Antonín Tučapský
by Janet Lunt
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 214-224]
Antonín Tučapský is one of a number of Czech composers who left their home country after 1968, settling in England in 1975. Well known for his work with the Moravian Teachers’ Choir, and as a distinguished composer, he was appointed Professor of Composition at London’s Trinity College of Music. Features of Czech national style regularly appear in his warmly romantic music. Tučapský has composed works in many genres, but it is his choral writing for which he is best known, among other things finding inspiration in English poetry. Dramatic potential and spiritual quality are priorities in Tučapský’s works, with frequent choice of sacred texts, evident in one of his grandest works, the Stabat Mater.
The Forgotten Generation
by Janet Lunt
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 21 (1999-2000), pp. 224-248]
The publicity given in recent decades to the so-called ‘lost generation’ of Terezín composers, Ullmann, Krása, Haas and Klein, and a fellow victim of the holocaust, Schulhoff, has led to lack of attention to other composers who suffered under Nazism and later Communism. These included subsequently well-known figures such as, in particular, Martinů, and Jewish or part-Jewish composers such as Karel, Lucký and Eben. Post-1948 Communist cultural ideology, under the reign of Minister of Education Zdeněk Nejedlý, viciously interfered with composers who did not comply with official dictates. Nejedlý’s prejudices against Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů extended to their pupils and those of the generation following. Composers were expected to show left-wing leanings. Post-1948 composers writing propaganda cantatas and other works, often in response to official commissions, were favoured, despite the dubious musical quality of much of their work.