Founded 1974
Jakub Hrůša
Graham Melville-Mason
Antonín Dvořák III †
Radomil Eliška
Markéta Hallová
Miloš Jurkovič
Radoslav Kvapil
Alena Němcová
Sylvie Bodorovà

Journal “Czech Music” Volume 24 (Abstract)

Contents of this page

Seamless, Original and Czech: Smetana’s Struggle to Produce a National Opera
Karel Janovický
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp. 37-44]

     A notable feature of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride is the absence in the cast of any member of the nobility or even a parish priest. This reflected a long-standing characteristic of Czech family culture: an inclination to retreat into domesticity and to focus on the national language and musical education at the village level, in quiet protest at outside impositions, seen as coming from oppressive Hapsburg rulers and the Catholic Church. Smetana was steeped in these traditions, made evident in The Bartered Bride. While he incorporated folk influences into the music, he strongly rejected the idea of employing a pot-pourri of folk songs and dances. Although his command of the Czech language was less than perfect, resulting in some awkward moments in the setting of words in the opera, most of these were ironed out in practice. We are left with an opera successfully bringing together the varying influences affecting Czech national culture at the time.

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The Kostelnička: A Life Before and After
John Tyrrell
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp. 45-49]

     When Janáček revised the score of Jenůfa in 1908, he omitted an aria for Kostelnička that had been present in the 1904 production. The change involved her being presented in a harsher light than in the original. In this lost aria Kostelnička was shown as a caring practical person, the prime motivation for her strictness being to protect Jenůfa from the dissolute Števa. In the original play she is presented as serving her village people unsparingly, despite the penury brought upon by her desperate marriage. She wishes her stepdaughter to marry her cousin Laca, but after he departs for military service, Jenůfa becomes pregnant through her liaison with the handsome and newly rich Števa. In seeking to protect the family reputation, when the baby arrives Kostelnička drowns it, and deceives Jenůfa into believing that it has died from natural causes, thus reinforcing the perception of her in the 1908 version as a malevolent monster. In the original story, however, the judges treat her leniently, seeing her as acting in a fit of madness. Jenůfa and Laca, now married, forgive her but she dies in a state of guilt before seeing a new grandchild.

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The Fights over Dvořák as Reflected in Josef Suk’s Correspondence
Jana Vojtěšková
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp. 49-57]

     In his correspondence Josef Suk made clear his distaste for the attacks of made by the critic Nejedlý and his claque on the music of his father-in-law, referring to the abuse as ‘mean, mole-like activity’. Suk was in turn accused of promoting the ‘cult of Antonin Dvořák’ and seeking to impugn the good work of Smetana and Fibich. While by the 1920s attacks on Dvořák had lessened, his operas were still criticised, and Suk was particularly upset by the ‘wild glee’ exhibited in a published denunciation of The Devil and Kate. He reiterated his view that the general air of disrespect, malice and hate was occasioned by envy because Dvořák was widely regarded as the greatest representative of Czech music abroad. Suk lived long enough to be satisfied that the reputation of his father-in-law remained intact.

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Antonín Dvořák
Cecil Parrott
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp. 57-64]

     Originally written in the early 1970s, this article discusses how the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in 1939 provoked an upsurge in patriotic feeling, and a profoundly felt response to the country’s nationalist music. This made it suspect in the eyes of the occupiers, and masterpieces such as Má Vlast and Libuše were rarely performed during the period of German control. One of the works revived after liberation was Dvořák’s most Czech opera, The Jacobin, audiences responding warmly to the heartfelt words of the returning Bohuš, describing the comfort he had derived from his country’s songs while in exile. Such absence from the homeland was the fate of many Czech musicians. While Dvořák’s visits to England and the U.S.A. were voluntary, he was always relieved when he could return. Though his patriotic feelings were less focused than those of Smetana, who wished to found a national school of Czech music, with the exception of his The Bartered Bride, Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances and other works with strong Czech elements were the more popular abroad.

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Dvořák’s Abodes and Travels during his Bacherol Years, 1860-1873: Physical and Human Environments for his First Major Outpouring of Works.
David R. Beveridge
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp. 65-159]

     This article follows on from the first instalment in Vol. 23 of Czech Music, in which Dvořák’s residential moves between 1841 and 1860 were detailed. With over 200 footnotes this second is an equally scrupulous examination, supported by the evidence of historical prints, maps and room plans, and again drawing attention to omissions and inaccuracies in earlier accounts. During his days as a young bachelor, Dvořák lived for the most part in Prague, rarely leaving the city, either through lack of time or wherewithal. He resided for much of the period with relatives, the Dušek family, in two spells, one from 1860 to late 1863, and the other between 1865 and his marriage in 1873, in three different flats in Karlovo náměstí (Charles Square). In the intervening 1864-5 period he lived in two separate apartments, both cramped and insalubrious, shared with other young bachelors. During this time he composed his first two symphonies, a first cello concerto with piano accompaniment, and Cypresses. During his second stay with the Dušek family he composed his 3rd Symphony, his first two operas, many songs and several chamber pieces. By the early 1870s his works were beginning to display the characteristics of his compositional maturity, though this more fully materialized after 1874.

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Nejedlý’s Critique of Dvořák as an Opera Composer
Milan Pospíšil
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp.160-169]

     Nejedlý’s attacks on Dvořák, particularly as an opera composer, began when the critic was 23 years old and continued to the end of his life. He became more circumspect, however, in his later criticisms, perhaps because the composer’s international renown had become so widely recognised. Initially castigating Dvořák as ‘Meyerbeerian’, he denied his capacity to write truly dramatic music, comparing his perceived failings unfavourably with the skills of Smetana, dismissing most of his operatic ventures as conservative, and servile to Viennese reactionaries. While he spoke relatively well of some of Dvořák’s earliest operas, he scorned Dimitrij and The Jacobin, viewing them as anti-Wagner and anti-Smetana. He later retracted some of the criticism, particularly with regard to The Jacobin, which he judged belatedly to be the composer’s best opera. But he remained critical of Rusalka and, finally Armida, which he described as an ‘unfortunate final creation’.

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1941: The Dvořák Centenary Celebrations in London and Elsewhere in the United Kingdom
Richard Beith
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp.170-187]

     The popularity of Dvořák’s music and the presence in London of the Czechoslovak Government-in-exile ensured that the centenary of his birth would be celebrated in wartime Britain. A London Committee was established for the purpose, comprising well-known British musicians and distinguished Czechs. Major concerts were arranged in venues like the Royal Albert Hall, in September and October 1941, and smaller scale ones, including lectures and exhibitions as well as concerts, at the Czechoslovak Institute. Concerts of Dvořák’s music were held in Manchester and Glasgow, but only in Liverpool was a provincial festival arranged, where centenary concerts and lectures were organized.

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Rudolf Firkušný in Concert Hall and Studio

[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 24 (2005-20064), pp. 187-195]

     For six decades Firkušný was regarded as the leading exponent of the Czech school of piano playing. For much of his youth Janáček was his mentor. His debut in Prague in 1923 was followed in the next decade by appearances in major European cities. He moved to Paris in 1933 and became part of a Czech artistic enclave which included Martinů and Kaprálová. The German occupation of Czechoslovakia and invasion of France led to Firkušný, like Martinů, fleeing via Portugal to the United States. He became one of America’s best loved pianists. Apart from championing Czech piano music he included modern American works in his repertoire. He returned to Czechoslovakia to play in the Prague Spring Festival of 1946, but the Communist take-over in 1948 forced him into exile again. He returned triumphantly to his homeland after the Velvet Revolution, and died in the United States in 1994. The final section of the article appraises Firkušný’s recordings, not only of the Czech piano music in which he excelled, but also of his favourite composers from Haydn through to Prokofiev.
(NOTE: The article is followed by a supplement to the comprehensive Firkušný discography (pp. 196-201) produced by Richard Beith for the first Occasional Publication of the Dvořák Society of 1999)

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