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ClassicsOnline Home » SALVA, T.: Cello Concerto / 3 Arias / Slovak Concerto Grosso No. 3 / Preludes (Prochac, Slavik, Skuta, Lejava)
Tadeáš Salva was one of the foremost Slovakian composers of his generation. His studies equipped him with a thorough awareness of the new Polish School, and his temperament inclined him toward a synthesis between contemporary technique and the inspiration of folklore. The cello was his favourite instrument. The Concerto is vibrantly orchestrated, absorbingly contoured and shares something of Penderecki’s aesthetic. The Slovak Concerto Grosso marries Stravinskian virtuosity with folk impressions, the Three Arias and Little Suite are touching, inspired miniatures whilst the unfinished Preludes illustrate Salva’s richness of originality and imagination.
Tadeáš Salva (1937–1995)
Slovak composer Tadeáš Salva studied the cello, piano and accordion at the Žilina Conservatory and simultaneously studied composition privately with Ján Zimmer. He continued his compositional studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (1958–1960). The conservative ambience of the Academy did not satisfy his artistic inclinations, however, and therefore he moved to the State College of Music in Katowice (Poland), where he graduated as a student of Bolesław Szabelski, former pupil of Karol Szymanowski and teacher of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki. Having finished his studies, Salva worked for Czechoslovak Radio Košice, and later for Czechoslovak Television in Bratislava, for SUK (Slovak Folk Art Ensemble), and for the Association of Slovak Composers. He also taught at the Faculty of Education at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. Nevertheless, composition remained the main passion and preoccupation of his whole life.
Salva had started to be interested in composition during his childhood. He grew up surrounded by lively, genuine folk traditions. After mastering the basic principles of playing string and keyboard instruments, he fully engaged himself in his own compositions. The period brought artistic controversy between the advocates of traditional composition approved by the official ideology, and the defenders of artistic innovation supported by strong impulses from the avant-garde in socialist countries. The doctrine of socialist realism did not last long, especially in Polish culture, and in Polish music had come to an end by 1956. In the same year the Warsaw Autumn festival was established and one of its consequences was the start of the new Polish compositional school, which represented the mainstream of avant-garde music for all countries under socialism. Composers such as Witold Lutosławski, Tadeusz Baird, Kazimierz Serocki, Włodzimierz Kotoński, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki were the leaders of the Polish school, which enriched the development of music after the Second World War with new stimuli. It was in Katowice, Poland, that Salva became a student of Szabelski, at the college where Górecki had been teaching, and in these surroundings Salva had an opportunity to discuss his compositions even with Witold Lutosławski, the leading figure of the Polish compositional school. Thus, when writing his student works, Salva already had the chance to deal with the most recent problems of contemporary music. Bruitism, present in Górecki’s works of the time, appealed to him as well as Lutosławski’s aleatoric textures and the new, expressive dimensions resulting from the confrontation of avant-garde techniques with traditional texts, in Penderecki’s compositions. Even in his first pieces Salva followed the achievements of the Polish school with texts carrying a universal humanistic message. His Requiem aeternam (in memory of JF Kennedy) from 1967 was the first Slovak work under socialism to set a liturgical text. At the same time he wrote his choral Litaniae lauretanae and remarkable Glagolithic Mass on an Old-Slavonic text. Beside vocal-instrumental works Salva also wrote orchestral and chamber music, electro-acoustic music, and he was the author of the first Slovak television opera Margita and Besná (1972), as well as of the first radio opera, The Weeping (1976).
In the early 1970s Salva composed a cycle of pieces for various instruments, each described as a “ballad”. In these works the synthesis of folklore and avant-garde methods—clearly inspired by Stravinsky’s work—was combined with inspiration from historical models. The works characterized by this new synthesis carried a typical Salva-like title—Slovak Concerto Grosso. This attempt to achieve the integration of traditional inspiration and modern avant-garde methods resulted in a crystallization of the composer’s original musical language, pervading his vocal-instrumental, orchestral, chamber as well as choral works.
As the cello was the instrument through which Salva had come to music, it is not by chance that it found its place in his work during the whole of his creative life. Salva’s Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra was written in 1967, at the time of the composer’s first period of creative growth and of Penderecki’s Sonata and Ligeti’s Concerto, which are similar in outline. What all the three works have in common is a two-movement form and an attempt at a non-traditional approach to orchestral writing. In Salva’s Concerto the solo instrument is joined by an orchestra consisting of piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet, violin, double-bass and an extensive percussion section (xylophone, vibraphone, wood-blocks, bongos, bass drum, cymbals, tubular bells, gongs and tam-tam). As with Penderecki’s compositions, Salva uses a non-traditional graphic score and aleatoric elements, yet the rhapsodic expressivity of the music is entirely unique and later became typical of Salva’s work.
In the 1980s Salva started to designate many of his chamber pieces as Concerto Grosso or Slovak Concerto Grosso. Solo parts of these compositions are distinguished by the concertante principle and technical virtuosity; thematically they often stem from traditional folklore motives. Slovak Concerto Grosso No 3 for violin, cello and organ from 1987 has two string instruments and organ, forming the characteristic Corelli concertino. The diatonic writing of the string parts suggests the idiom of Slovak folklore. The dramatic progress of the work increases gradually through the three movements of the piece, Etude, Danza rustica, and Rhapsody.
In 1989 and 1990 Salva wrote two cyclic pieces for cello and piano. The four-movement Little Suite (Melody, Song without Words, Little Dance, Little Rondo) from 1989 was dedicated to Juraj Fazekaš, who had given the première of his Cello Concerto. The suite brings together four contrasting miniatures into one whole. Three Arias (1990) use the contrast of cantabile cello playing and piano passages. All seven movements of both pieces are marked by rhapsodic progress and free elaboration of diatonic themes and motives.
The last of Salva’s compositions is the cycle Eight Preludes for Two Cellos, which remained unfinished. All the movements of the cycle are dominated by a concertante use of counterpoint often employing imitational connection between the two instruments. The rhythm of these cello bicinia is enriched by frequent use of polyrhythms.
Salva’s works dedicated to his favourite instrument are characterized by a synthesis of modern and traditional elements, distinguished by kaleidoscopic transformations of texture, extremely rich rhythmical elements and avoidance of any orthodoxy in thought or inspiration.
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