REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » JANACEK: Danube / Moravian Dances / Suite Op. 3
Transcription and sound realisation by Leos Faltus, Milan Stedron and Otakar
Schluck und Jau
Suite, Op. 3
It was not until he
was 62 that Janácek won any considerable reputation outside his native Moravia.
In 1916, however, the performance of his opera Jenufa at the Prague National
Opera met with immediate success, encouraging him to spend his last twelve
years in a renewed attention to opera, a form he had first tackled thirty years
earlier, although that first opera, Sarka, was not performed until 1925.
Janácek was born in
Hukvaldy, Moravia, in 1854, fifth of the nine children of a music teacher. His
education from the age of 11 was at the choir school of the Augustinian
monastery in Brno, followed by training as a teacher. During his probationary
years he ran the Brno monastery choir and a working men’s choral society, and
after a year's study at the Prague Organ School, where Dvorak had been a pupil
thirteen years before, he returned to Brno, extending his work with choral
societies and as a novice composer. He later undertook further study in Leipzig
and in Vienna, giving up dreams of working under Saint-Saëns in Paris or under
Rubinstein in St. Petersburg.
In 1880 Janácek
returned to Brno as a fully qualified teacher of music at the Teachers'
Institute, marrying, in the following year, the fifteen-year-old daughter of
the director of the Institute. There were to be two children of what proved
initially an unsuitable match, a daughter Olga, who died in 1902 at the age of
20, and a son Vladimir, who died at the age of two in 1890. In Brno Janácek
established an organ school, which prospered under his direction, to become, in
1919, part of the Brno Conservatory. He was active in the collection and
publication of folk music and in composition, and enjoyed considerable esteem
as director of the principal music school in Moravia.
It was the performance
of Janácek's opera Jenufa in Prague that brought about a sudden change.
Productions of the opera followed in Vienna, Berlin and elsewhere in Germany,
and there was now good reason for him to turn his attention to further
composition for the theatre. There followed The Excursion of Mr. Broucek,
Káta Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropoulos Affair and, in the
year of his death, 1928, an opera based on Dostoievsky, From the House of
In style Janácek was
strongly influenced by the music and by the speech of his native province. His
music is often programmatic in content, witness the two string quartets, the
first a musical version of Tolstoy's story The Kreutzer Sonata, and the
second, the so-called Intimate Letters, based on correspondence with his
beloved Kamila Stosslova, a young married woman with whom he had become infatuated
in the final decade of his life. His musical language is full of contrasts,
sometimes whimsical and always highly idiosyncratic.
In March 1923 Janácek
visited Bratislava to hear the first performance of his opera Káta Kabanová. It
was during the days he spent in the capital of Slovakia that he resolved to
write a symphonic poem on the Danube, a river that he regarded as Slav, passing
as it did through four Slav states. For such a project Smetana had provided a
precedent in his Vltava, linking epiodes in the history of his country.
Janácek, however, was to treat the subject in his own idiosyncratic way,
representing the Danube, according to his pupil Osvald Chlubna, as a woman with
all her passions and instincts.
At Janácek's death in
1928 sketches for four movements of what might have been intended as a five
movement symphonic poem were found, and these were later arranged by Osvald
Chlubna, who had studied with Janácek in Brno, and have hitherto been known in
that version. The present recording returns to the original, orchestrated
sketch of the work, transcribed, and adjusted where necessary by Leos Faltus,
Milan Stedron and Otakar Trhlik.
The first movement is
based on the poem Lola by Alexander Insarov, the story of a prostitute
who passes from a life of pleasure and gaiety to a search for her lost palace
and final destitution, cold and hungry .To this Janácek added his own ending,
as Lola drowns herself in the river.
The second movement,
possible the first to be written, takes as its source a poem The Drowned
Girl by Pavla Krickova. Here again a young girl, seen by a strange boy as
she bathes, throws herself into the river and drowns. As so often in Janácek
music, melodic outlines are suggested by the intonation and rhythm of words,
the viola motif, imitated by instrument after instrument, an accurate
embodiment of the line:
"But an hour had
passed since he saw her."
A scherzo movement
follows, perhaps a representation of Vienna, introducing a soprano vocalise. It
leads to a tragic and intense fourth movement, the drowning motif that had been
heard in the second movement now re-appearing in a clarinet version, marking
Lola's final despair before the abruptly dramatic conclusion.
In May 1928 Janácek
was invited by the director of the Berlin Renaissance Theatre, Gustav Hartung,
to write incidental music for the play Schluck und Jau by Gerhardt
Hauptmann for a summer festival production at Heidelberg Castle. Hauptmann's
play, written in 1989, was based on the Induction of Shakespeare's The
Taming of the Shrew, in which the drunken tinker Christopher Sly is
deceived into believing himself a lord, his earlier life only a fit of lunacy.
In Schluck und Jau,
the tramp Jau, in a drunken stupor, is dressed as a duke, to receive due honour
when he wakes up, while his companion Schluck is induced to dress up as his
duchess, for the amusement of the real Duke and Duchess. Hauptmann described
the work as a Scherzspiel in sechs Vorgängen, these six events representing a
considerable expansion of Shakespeare's brief prologue.
Janácek was not
enthusiastic about the undertaking. He complained that he had been given too
short notice, and he found much to criticise in the play itself. Yet finally,
it seems, he was attracted by the character of Jau, completing first the scene
in which Jau wakes as a duke, the second of the two extracts included in the
Four pieces where
written of what was intended to be a very much fuller undertaking, involving
interludes and accompaniment for dancers. Of these the second provided fanfares
probably for use at various points in the play, while the fourth is no more
than a brief fragment. The first piece, marked Andante, seems likely to have
been intended as an introduction, with a suggestion in its opening of the huntsman's
horn. Hartung's production of Schluck und Jau, which had the cooperation
of the playwright, eventually used music arranged from the works of Smetana.
Janácek had a
fundamental interest in the folk music of his native Moravia, on which he was
considered a major authority. His interest manifested itself in editions of
Moravian folk music and in a number of arrangements of songs and dances. The
five dances, opening with a Kozich, a fur-coat dance, are characteristic in
melodic contour and rhythm of the music of East Moravia.
Janácek's Suite for
Orchestra, Opus 3, was completed in January 1891, but not performed until
after the composer's death, in September 1928. At the time of its composition
Janácek was working on his opera The Beginning of a Romance, which was first
performed in Brno in 1894, but later partly destroyed by the composer. The Suite,
which originally had the title Piece for Orchestra, makes use of
thematic material from the opera.
The first of the four
movements uses three such themes from The Beginning of a Romance, with the
second, an Adagio, using a characteristically Moravian melody that re-appears
in a number of other compositions by Janácek. The third movement is an expanded
version of one of his Lachian Dances, and the last a Moravian marching
Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its
distinguished conductors. These include Vaclav Talich (1949-1952), Ludovit
Rajter, Ladislav Slovak and Libor Pešek. Zdenék Košler has also had a long and
distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most
successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvorák.
During the years of
its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the
direction of many of the most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene
Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and
Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for
Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos
labels. These recordings have brought the orchestra a growing international
reputation and praise from the critics of leading international publications.
Libor Pešek was born
in 1933 and studied conducting at the Prague Academy of Musical Arts, later
appearing at home and abroad with his own ensembles. For nine years he directed
orchestras at Leeuwarden and Enschede in Holland and was for many years
principal conductor of the Pardubice State Orchestra. After achieving
considerable success as music director of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra in
Bratislava, in 1982 he moved to Prague to become conductor of the Czech
Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1988 he was appointed Principal Conductor of the
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Last Albums Viewed
JANACEK: Danube / Moravian Dances / Suite Op. 3