Author Topic: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)  (Read 70526 times)

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Offline Catison

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2007, 11:47:59 AM »
I want to resurrect this thread after listening to the second string quartet.  I was amazed, but this quartet is so lovely.  It has been such a long time since I listened, after having barely acquainted myself with Janacek's music.  What struck me this time was an odd similarity.  There are some sections which sound so much like Michael Nyman's second string quartet, I am surprised I didn't hear it before.

I'll try to post some samples later, but in the mean time, is there anyone else who can hear the same thing?
-Brett

Offline Brewski

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2007, 11:58:00 AM »
I also love the Janacek (and like you, haven't heard it in awhile) but alas, don't know the Nyman at all.  There appear to be at least two recordings, by the Lyric and Balanescu quartets.  Is the one you like one of these? 

--Bruce
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Offline Catison

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #22 on: November 06, 2007, 12:31:27 PM »
I also love the Janacek (and like you, haven't heard it in awhile) but alas, don't know the Nyman at all.  There appear to be at least two recordings, by the Lyric and Balanescu quartets.  Is the one you like one of these? 

--Bruce

I have Balanescu.  Balanescu is Nyman's right hand violin player.

Perhaps it is not so much this string quartet though, as it is Janacek having some Nyman moments.  Like I said, I'll have to get some samples.  There are too many pieces flying around my head.
-Brett

Drasko

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #23 on: November 06, 2007, 12:40:45 PM »
Boulez conducting From The House of Dead can be streamed from BBC 3 radio site for another day or two

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/afternoonon3/pip/bbha9/

Click on Radio Player top right and then chose Thursday from Afternoon on 3

Opera starts around 2 hours 11 minutes into the show

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2007, 09:43:25 AM »
In other words, it is a stark, spare, stripped-down piece where every note speaks volumes. That was always Janacek's ideal; he achieves it more than any other composer I know

I think that's taking it a bit far, but i'll concede he is indeed very good in that respect.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2007, 11:28:39 AM »
I just listened to The Cunning Little Vixen last weekend for the first time. WOW! Love it. I got the Bohumil Gregor/Supraphon recording.

BTW, for the Boulez fans here, there is an outstanding Glagolitic Mass with Boulez conducting the CSO on a "Tribute to Boulez" 2CD set available only from the CSO here.

Offline Thom

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #26 on: December 08, 2007, 08:28:31 AM »


I haven't heard that much by Janacek but this disc is a favourite of mine. Especially the On an Overgrown Path Suite (on this cd for string orchestra, originally it was written for solo piano I think) is a wonderful piece. Very dear to me indeed.

Harry

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #27 on: December 08, 2007, 08:41:42 AM »


I haven't heard that much by Janacek but this disc is a favourite of mine. Especially the On an Overgrown Path Suite (on this cd for string orchestra, originally it was written for solo piano I think) is a wonderful piece. Very dear to me indeed.

Yes Thom, that is a very fine recording. Bought that in a sale, and had no high hopes somehow, but boy was I in for a surprise. :)

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #28 on: December 08, 2007, 04:21:29 PM »

Especially the On an Overgrown Path Suite (on this cd for string orchestra, originally it was written for solo piano I think) is a wonderful piece. Very dear to me indeed.

The Overgrown Path pieces - or at least the five at the core of them - were in fact originally written for harmonium. You can hear them in that form, played on Janacek's own harmonium in Hukvaldy, on the Supraphon Unknown Janacek disc, which includes some stunning rarities, operatic 'deleted scenes', Janacek's last fragment recorded on both harmonium and piano (by Firkusny) etc.! It should be emphasized that the string orchestra versions on the Chandos disc are arrangements, not original Janacek (though tastefully done by Jarmil Burghauser). Though the harmonium originals may be a little clunky for some tastes, their homespun intimacy fits this most intimate and confessional of cycles perfectly IMO; also, when on hears things like the Virgin of Frydek (with its passionate organ-like outburst in the middle) in their original form, they make even more sense.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2007, 04:35:10 PM by lukeottevanger »

Offline not edward

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #29 on: December 08, 2007, 05:45:20 PM »
The Overgrown Path pieces - or at least the five at the core of them - were in fact originally written for harmonium. You can hear them in that form, played on Janacek's own harmonium in Hukvaldy, on the Supraphon Unknown Janacek disc, which includes some stunning rarities, operatic 'deleted scenes', Janacek's last fragment recorded on both harmonium and piano (by Firkusny) etc.! It should be emphasized that the string orchestra versions on the Chandos disc are arrangements, not original Janacek (though tastefully done by Jarmil Burghauser). Though the harmonium originals may be a little clunky for some tastes, their homespun intimacy fits this most intimate and confessional of cycles perfectly IMO; also, when on hears things like the Virgin of Frydek (with its passionate organ-like outburst in the middle) in their original form, they make even more sense.
Wow, that looks like an interesting disc: I've hardly heard any of these pieces in the forms mentioned. Another thing to add to my absurdly long wishlist. :P
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Offline Thom

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #30 on: December 09, 2007, 07:02:52 AM »
The Overgrown Path pieces - or at least the five at the core of them - were in fact originally written for harmonium. You can hear them in that form, played on Janacek's own harmonium in Hukvaldy, on the Supraphon Unknown Janacek disc, which includes some stunning rarities, operatic 'deleted scenes', Janacek's last fragment recorded on both harmonium and piano (by Firkusny) etc.! It should be emphasized that the string orchestra versions on the Chandos disc are arrangements, not original Janacek (though tastefully done by Jarmil Burghauser). Though the harmonium originals may be a little clunky for some tastes, their homespun intimacy fits this most intimate and confessional of cycles perfectly IMO; also, when on hears things like the Virgin of Frydek (with its passionate organ-like outburst in the middle) in their original form, they make even more sense.

Thank you. I didn't know that about the harmonium bit. Doesn't change the way i feel about the cd I mentioned and the version for String Orchestra but your explanation gives it certainly a new perspective which I always like when listening to music.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #31 on: December 10, 2007, 11:37:50 AM »
Thanks in return - I never need prompting to go back to Janacek who, as I've probably indicated enough, is my favourite composer and was at least at one point (my university days) my 'specialist subject' of choice. But this little discussion made me play through On an Overgrown Path again today, and I was bowled over anew. I've always felt that In the Mists is Janacek's finest piano work; perhaps it is. But even as one who has extolled the exquisite intimacy of Overgrown Path many times before on this site (a tone I aimed to acheive, in a personal way, in my own sequence of simple pieces for children, though I obviously fell far short of the mark), it has never hit me with quite the force it did today. Perhaps I was just playing particularly well today  ;D (I've never been moved by my own playing much before, so there might be something to that).

FWIW, I have my own little theory about the tonal scheme of Overgrown Path, taking into account the biographical background to the pieces, over which the shadow of the death of Janacek's much-loved daughter Olga hangs. The first pieces all hang around his favourite key of D flat - key of love, intimacy and security; even those in C sharp minor can't help gravitating to the major in Schubertian fashion; and Come With Us, which is in D, only finds true rootedness in its central D flat section (there's more to say about that piece, but perhaps not here). Then the music shifts violently away to E flat (Words Fail), climaxing in that stilled moment of pure C major, Good Night, which is like a last precious farewell to Olga, perhaps, and then its terrifying consequent piece, Unutterable Anguish, in E minor, which is hung around a repeated oscillation of a third just as is Good Night, but to totally different effect. The last pieces offer interesting ways to tie together the D flat pieces to the E minor one particularly - In Tears, which is all in second inversions of G major and D flat major, is like a transfiguration of Come With Us, and that amazing piece The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away, which makes the Olga theme absolutely explicit, alternates E major and C sharp minor. This seems to me sometihng like a tripartite scheme and it helps to explain the unity of the cycle, and the feeling of pyschological development. I doubt that Janacek planned it particularly - he wasn't that sort of composer - but he surely simply allowed his deeper tonal urges to emerge unmediated, in his standard fashion...

Anyway, that was just to share my theory. What hit me today particularly, though pieces like A Blown-Away Leaf and They Chattered Like Swallows were their usual heart-rending experience, was The Virgin of Frydek, a little piece portraying the eponymous village's religious procession in a standard form (c.w. Berlioz etc.) - music gets louder as it approaches, and quiter as it recedes. But I don't think I've ever had such a truly religious experience from a piece of music - sounds hyperbolic, but I think this is true. There is, again, this incredible, slightly unsettling concentration on the second inversion as the procession approaches - I don't think anyone understood the subtle psychological power of this chord like Janacek - and then as it grows still nearer an anguished move to D flat minor. What startled me today more than ever was the 'organ' explosion in the centre of the piece (though I've always found this moment almost overwhelming), which surely represents the moment at which one comes face-to-face with the 'mystery'. Wordless, but extraordinarily powerful*. The procession recedes, but the music is ever-so-subtly different - D flat major now. Janacek doesn't ram this down your throat; because he's used 6/4s instead of 5/3s in the opening music, the contrast isn't crudely blatant, but as a whole the piece was, as I said, about as close to a truly religious experience as music has ever taken me. The fact that piece is a simple, humble, explicitly rural work originally written for Janacek's rumbling old harmonium does nothing but heighten this feeling for me - music doesn't need to be the B minor Mass to be transcendent.

*Actually, this piece exists in another form, available on ASV, which is not wordless - a setting of the Zdravas Maria for tenor, organ, choir, and viola solo - an extremely fervent piece

Lady Chatterley

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #32 on: March 19, 2008, 01:58:14 PM »
I can not find a recording of Janacek's Intimate Letters is this about the 700 love letters he wrote to Kamila Stosslova? I found a biography on Leos life by Jaroslav Vogel Has anyone read this?Apparently Kamila kept all his letters but he destroyed hers.He was married and so was she,but they were wildly in unrequited love.
Was everything he wrote after meeting her written for her?

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #33 on: March 19, 2008, 02:08:35 PM »
Essentially, yes it was. You can read those letters in a beautifully, sensitively edited edition by John Tyrell.

You can find Intimate Letters, don't worry - it is the subtitle (Kamila very much in mind) of the second string quartet, one of Janacek's last and most famous works. And, just possibly, my single favourite piece of music. (Big statement, I know!)

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #34 on: March 19, 2008, 02:14:43 PM »
BTW, the love and infatuation was on Janacek's side. Kamila's feelings were less ardent, in any case!

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #35 on: March 19, 2008, 02:19:57 PM »
The book Muriel might like (and only £3 at amazon uk at the moment!). Janacek's prose style is extraordinary:



The second quartet is so radiant with life and love and complete spontaneous honesty and lack of calculation - there is very little else like it, except perhaps Janacek's own Diary of One Who Vanished - the most extraordinary account of adolescent love, written by an old man.

Lady Chatterley

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #36 on: March 19, 2008, 02:47:53 PM »
BTW, the love and infatuation was on Janacek's side. Kamila's feelings were less ardent, in any case!

 She was 38 years younger,he must have seemed like a grandfather to her.I suppose she must have been flattered by his declarations ,or else why wound she have replied,kept the letters and then been at his side when he died?
 I did find the letters and the String Quartets,it helps when one spells the composes name correctly.
 I'll read the Vogel and get back to you,Leos was quite naughty with the gals ,his poor long suffering wife must have anguished with every new singer that walked through the stage door.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #37 on: March 19, 2008, 03:01:18 PM »
She was 38 years younger,he must have seemed like a grandfather to her.I suppose she must have been flattered by his declarations ,or else why wound she have replied,kept the letters and then been at his side when he died?

Yes, she was flattered. Also, of course, he was a famous man! Janacek literature tends to paint her as quite a shallow figure; there is the implication that Janacek was 'projecting' somewhat and seeing sides to her that may not have been there. For instance, she had a fairly dark complexion which Janacek may have connected somewhere with the idea of the exotic, exciting 'gypsy girl' (c.f the Zefka in the Diary). Of course Janacek's death is intimately connected to her - she was visiting him in Hukvaldy with her son, who went missing somewhere in the countryside. Janacek took ill from his efforts searching for the boy and died soon after.

I did find the letters and the String Quartets,it helps when one spells the composes name correctly.
 I'll read the Vogel and get back to you,Leos was quite naughty with the gals ,his poor long suffering wife must have anguished with every new singer that walked through the stage door.

You can read her memoirs too - also edited by Tyrell, the foremost non-Czech Janacek specialist. They don't paint Janacek in the best of lights, but one must remember that she was trying to give her side of the story and there is quite a bias in her account. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. You can read Tyrell's conclusion on the matter here - end of page 2 to page 3 is the relevant bit.

Offline Christo

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #38 on: March 20, 2008, 12:54:47 AM »
Quote from: Luke
I haven’t posted on this thread until now, and, as the forum’s self-appointed Janacek geek/obsessive, this may seem peculiar. The simple fact is I haven’t been able to until now as I have been away this weekend.

The fact is, I was attending the funeral of my much-loved grandmother, and I mention this simply because her history, and her family, are among other things an important part of my closeness to Janacek. She was Czech, and her family was rooted in artistic and intellectual circles (Franz Werfel, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin of the Lyric Suite fame, VPO lead cellist Friedrich Buxbaum….). Amongst these was the uncle of her husband (my grandfather), the writer (and sometime composer) Max Brod, [in]famous as an all-important friend of Kafka’s, and only slightly less so for his pivotal  impact on Janacek’s career. Through Max Brod, my grandfather met Janacek on one single occasion - my grandfather must can only have been in his teens. Knowledge of this meeting always makes me shiver.

So, yes, there are family roots to time and place and even to Janacek personally; his musical style speaks directly to my heart; there is no other composer whose every note seems to me to be so right and so potent - but my adoration of Janacek is deeper rooted than that. When I was at university I wrote my final year’s dissertation tracing the course of Janacek’s aesthetic stances throughout his life, as revealed in his letters, his theoretical writings and of course his music. This course can be summed up in one or two words: Integration, and Truth. The latter was of prime importance to Janacek - truth to the characters of his operas, psychological truth and musical truth. He believed, IMO rightly, that all this could only follow from absolutely scrupulous truth to himself, and his music is marked by an ever greater Integration (his word, but an appropriate one) by means of which he strips his music of all inessentials and non sequiturs until all that is left, every note, absolutely drips with ‘truth’ (as he said of Wozzeck - ‘every note drips with blood’). No other composer I know of pursued this course with the zeal Janacek did - he was quite to happy to accept certain sorts of ‘imperfection’, even to welcome them, in the pursuit of the goal of directness and honesty.  As a composer of sorts myself, his example is the greatest possible inspiration to me, and I have been striving to follow it, in my own way, these last few years. Any success I have had in my pieces I attribute solely to the soul-searching this has entailed, and I suppose, indirectly at least, to the unique way in which Janacek made a virtue of what are traditionally seen as musical vices, by realising the deeper musical truths that lay beneath them. In brief, he discovered that if one means every note of what one says, understanding the implications from every angle, one can turn the worn-out ruts of musical habit and inclination into routes straight to the heart.

Naturally, I love almost all his works, but FWIW the ones which I revere above all others are:

Operas: the big five (Broucek, Makropulos, Katya, Vixen and House of the Dead, especially the last three)
intimate Letters Quartet
Diary of One Who Disappeared  (these last two pieces are top of the list, in fact)
In the Mists
Bezruc Choruses
The Fiddler’s Child

Great exposé Luke, read with admiration. And one that really urges me to dive into my shelves again for the 'Unknown Janáček' series and other Supraphon rarities that I found mostly in Brno, on the occasion of a personal Janáček pilgrimage, made a decade ago. (Actually, you're the first to name The Fiddler's Child as a favourite; I never paid much attention to it, but now I will!)

Btw, I remember I also went to Brno to find a copy of the (more or less locally distributed, if I remember well) recordings of his Moravian and Slovak folk music phonograph recordings 1909-1912, combined with a well documented book (booklet). Did you ever pay attention to that rather Bartók-like side of his career?
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

lukeottevanger

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Re: Janáček (Leoš' Lair)
« Reply #39 on: March 21, 2008, 05:34:17 AM »
Btw, I remember I also went to Brno to find a copy of the (more or less locally distributed, if I remember well) recordings of his Moravian and Slovak folk music phonograph recordings 1909-1912, combined with a well documented book (booklet). Did you ever pay attention to that rather Bartók-like side of his career?

I remember reading about that recording when it was issued - 1998 or 9, IIRC - and I intended to try to get hold of a copy, but I never did. I paid attention to that side of his career in that it must be mentioned in any description of his life, but little more than that, I'm afraid. It's an area I look forward to exploring. No doubt a composer of Janacek's mental bent, with its peculiar mix of 'science' and intuition, would have had interesting reactions to the experience, ones subtly different from Bartok's, I expect.