About this Recording
8.555245 - JANACEK: Danube / Moravian Dances / Suite Op. 3
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Leo‰ Janáãek (1854-1928)

The Danube • Schluck und Jau • Moravian Dances • Suite, Op. 3

It was not until he was 62 that Janáãek won any considerable reputation outside his native Moravia. In 1916, however, the performance of his opera JenÛfa 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, ·árka, was not performed until 1925.

Leo‰ Janáãek was born at Hukvaldy in Moravia in 1854, fifth of the nine children of a village music teacher. His education from the age of eleven 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 DvoÞák 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 he 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 twenty, and a son Vladimir, who died at the age of two in 1890. In Brno Janáãek 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 Janáãek’s opera JenÛfa 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 Brouãek, Kát’a Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropoulos Affair and, in the year of his death, 1928, an opera based on Dostoyevsky, From the House of the Dead.

In style Janáãek was strongly influenced by the music and by the speech of his native province. His music is often programmatic in content, as, for example, in 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 Stösslová, 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 Janáãek visited Bratislava to hear the first performance of his opera Kát’a 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 episodes in the history of his country. Janáãek, 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 Janáãek’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 Janáãek 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 Leo‰ Faltus, Milan ·tûdroÀ 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 Janáãek added his own ending, as Lola drowns herself in the river. The second movement, possibly the first to be written, takes as its source a poem The Drowned Girl by Pavla KÞíÏková. Here again a young girl, observed by a strange boy as she bathes, throws herself into the river and drowns. As so often in Janáãek’s 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 Janáãek 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 1898, 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.

Janáãek 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 were 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 co-operation of the playwright, eventually used music arranged from the works of Smetana.

Janáãek 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 KoÏich, a fur-coat dance, are characteristic in melodic contour and rhythm of the music of East Moravia.

Janáãek’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 Janáãek 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 his other compositions. The third movement is an expanded version of one of his Lachian Dances, and the last a Moravian marching dance.

Keith Anderson

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

The Slovak Philharmonic was founded in 1949 as the first Slovak professional state symphony orchestra. Its chief conductors have included Vaclav Talich, Ludovit Rajter, and Libor Pe‰ek. The Slovak Philharmonic is a regular guest at major European music festivals. On tour it has performed in eighteen European countries, in Japan, on Cyprus, in Turkey and in the United States. It has recorded extensively for Naxos as well as for other labels, and for radio, television and film companies.

Libor Pe‰ek

Born in 1933, the conductor Libor Pe‰ek studied conducting under Karel Anãerl, Václav Neumann and Václav Smetáãek at the Prague Academy of Musical Arts. Shortly after graduation in 1956 he set up the Prague Chamber Harmony, an ensemble which he took on several acclaimed international tours and with which he made a number of recordings. Subsequent years saw him at the head of, successively, the Sebastian Orchestra, the North Bohemia Orchestra in Teplice, and from 1970 to 1977, the present Chamber Philharmonic in Pardubice, in the development of which he played an important part. His first appearance with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in 1972 and between 1981 and 1990 he was its permanent conductor, for a time combining this position with that of principal conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic. In 1987 Libor Pe‰ek was appointed principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, an ensemble with which he has toured widely, with acclaimed appearances at the London Promenade Concerts, in America and, a rare honour for a foreign orchestra, at the Prague Spring. He has made a number of important recordings and is now conductor laureate of the Liverpool orchestra. He was appointed Knight of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen in March 1996 during her visit to Prague, and was awarded an honorary fellowship by the University of Central Lancashire in 1997.

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