About this Recording
8.220362 - JANACEK: Danube / Moravian Dances / Suite Op. 3

Leos Janácek (1854-1928)
The Danube
(Critical Transcription and sound realisation by Leos Faltus, Milan Stedron and Otakar Trhlik)
Schluck und Jau
Moravian Dances
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 the Dead.

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 present recording.

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 dance.

The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak 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
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.

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