JANACEK: Violin Sonata / Capriccio / Romance / Dumka

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Leos Janaček (1854 -1928)

Violin Sonata




Capriccio forPiano left-hand,

Flute/Piccolo,Two Trumpets, Three Trombones and Tenor Tuba

Czech music in thecourse of the nineteenth century was left largely to three composers: Smetana(encouraged by Liszt), Dvořak (championed by Brahms), and Janaček(unknown to anyone). Janaček, a humble Moravian from Brno, began as atrail-blazing teacher and nature-loving folklorist. He ended by becoming one ofthe most creative and lastingly original operatic forces of the twentiethcentury. Discovered late (not until his sixties, with the 1916 Pragueproduction of Jenůfa), his pioneering of "speech-melody",based on the rise and fall and rhythms of his native tongue, gave him thedistinguishing musical soundprint of his lifework. "Ifspeech-melody," he wrote in 1918, "is the flower of awater-lily, it nevertheless buds and blossoms and drinks from the roots, whichwander in the waters of the mind". "I don't need to understand thewords," his Brno student, the conductor Vilem Tausky, remembered himsaying. "I can tell by the tempo and modulation of speech how a manfeels; if he lies, or if it is just a conventional conversation. I have beencollecting these speech rhythms for years, and I have an immense dictionary.

These are my windows into the soul of man, and when I need to find a dramaticexpression I have recourse to my library". "Janaček's creationwas life, and to live was to create",
his biographer Jaroslav Vogelhas written (1962). "He composed permanently-in the streets, at themarket, during his morning walks... He even composed during hisclasses..." The older he got the younger his art became, transcendingits romantic roots through the radical economy, cellular modernity and non-conformity of its conception. The energy was unstoppable, the inventivecocktail endless.

On 15th August,1919 Janaček was in Hukvaldy, the mountain village in North Moravia wherehe had been born. In an essay that day, written as he sat "lost in mydreams" among the beeches and limes of the old castle, he ventured todescribe the moment of inspiration, of creation. He called it Silence:

The ViolinSonata in A flat (G sharp) minor (1914- 21), first performed in Brnoin 1922 before being heard the following year at the second Salzburg ISCMFestival, belongs among the most radica1ly imagined utterances ever conceivedfor such a relatively traditional medium. Fo1lowing the first draft ("Iwrote [it] at the beginning of the War when we were expecting theRussians in Moravia"), it went through a further two revisions beforereaching its final (considerably altered) form in 1921. Comparison of the 1914and 1921 versions shows that originally the present Adagio finale wasthe second movement; that the Balada (published separately in 1915 withan ending in C sharp major rather than the contrived minor guise of its sonata context)was the third; and that the finale had been quite different - a Conmoto, Tempo di marcia, not only quoting cyclically from the openingmovement and the Adagio but also featuring a main idea in D flatpresaging that of the Knighťs Theme from the symphonic poem TheBallad of Blanik (1920). Prefaced by a short unaccompanied violinimprovisation, the first movement is a taut, quasi monothematic sonata design,with a formal exposition repeat. Tripartite structures underline the Balada (nocturne)and Allegretto (scherzo) - characterised in the former by adevelopmental rather than literal reprise; and in the latter by the contrast ofa simple Katya Kabanova-like modal song with a harmonically richer (slower)middle section. The closing G sharp minor Adagio is another broadlymonothematic structure, with only a very terse second subject in the major. Itsrecapitulation is striking for the way the opening chorale theme, originallygiven to piano, is transferred to the violin with a harmonically and texturallynew background of agitated keyboard tremolos symbolic, according to thecomposer, of "the Russian armies entering Hungary" (26thSeptember, 1914). Janaček always had a liking for the Adagio and Balada.

in them, he maintained, was "some truth".

A number of worksare lost from Janaček's youth and his brief period as a student at theLeipzig Conservatory - among them an orchestral scherzo for a symphony,seventeen fugues for piano, and pairs of sonatas for piano, and violin andpiano (1879-80). The Mendelssohnian E major Romance (November 1879) wasoriginally No. 4 of a set of seven (the others have disappeared). Writing tohis child sweetheart, Zdenka Schulzova, Janaček claimed that "here,at last, I have expressed my joy, my Zdenci, my happiness". The pieceis in ternary form, with an introduction that comes back at the end. The Dumka(1880) and Allegro (undated) tap veins of melancholy and energyvariously Slavonic in root but occasionally more widely European. This is notmusic without defect, but it has a place in our understanding of Janaček'sstrange genius. As his composition pupil, the pianist Rudolf Firkusn?¢, remindsus, "the why was [always] more interesting to him than thewhat".

Contemporary withthe pagan, festive Sinfonietta, the Capriccio for piano (Iefthand), flute/piccolo, two trumpets, three trombones and tuba (June-October1926) was the second of Janaček's two piano chamber concertos. A gritty,challenging, demanding, quirky piece that seems to travel from darkness tolight, from illusions of marches and waltzes, expanses of resigned, frozenwastes, and echoes of "gallows-humour", to a promised land ofregeneration and blazing D flat hope, it was commissioned by Otakar Hollmann,who had lost the use of his right arm during the Great War.

What inspired it(or its peculiar scoring) has never been adequately explained, "Youknow, to write merely for the left hand would hove been childishlygratuitous," Janaček told Hollmann, "More reasons werenecessary - subjective and objective, When all these were present and clashed,the work came into existence", Butwhat were those subjective reasons?How, for instance, does Defiance (the work's intended subtitle) equatewith Janaček's view (in 1928) that "it is capricious, nothing butgratuitousness and puns"? And how does the fourth movement's hymn-likeperoration, or the relationship of its cadenza to the "Crucifixus"organ cadenza of the Glagolitic Mass, relate to caprice? Czechscholarly reception has advanced many theories, "A protest against thesenselessness and horrors of war [the piano personifying] a victim ,.,who continues to wage an untiring struggle" (Burghauser). "Anexpression of peace and contentment at the time of[the composer's] affectionfor Kamila [Stosslova, the love of his old age, 38 years younger] and ofdefiance against the opinion of the rest of the worlď' (Stědroň).

A reflection - through "the sometimes pugnacious, sometimes embittered,ironical, nostalgic ...sceptical character of the first three movements [and]the brighter mood of the last" - of Janaček's "struggleas a man a
Disc: 1
Capriccio for Piano Left-Hand and Chamber Orchestr
1 Con moto
2 Balada; Con moto
3 Allegretto
4 Adagio
5 Romance
6 Dumka
7 Allegro
8 Allegro
9 Adagio
10 Allegretto
11 Andante
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