Founded 1974
Jakub Hrůša
Graham Melville-Mason
Antonín Dvořák III †
Radomil Eliška
Markéta Hallová
Miloš Jurkovič
Radoslav Kvapil
Alena Němcová
Sylvie Bodorovà

Journal “Czech Music” Volume 22 (Abstract)

Contents of this page

Changes along the Overgrown Path: Janáček’s Attitudes to Smetana
Michael B. Beckerman
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 26-41

     In his youth Janáček made no secret of his ambivalence towards Smetana’s music. Later his attitudes softened. In the 1870s and 1880s he had espoused the philosophy of the so-called ‘abstract formalists’, who championed the work of Dvořák, rather than that of the ‘concrete formalists’, who supported Smetana. Janáček was thus critical of what he saw as Smetana’s preoccupation with extra-musical beauty, seen as distorting pure musical form. But from the late 1880s Janáček’s abstract formalist stance crumpled as his own distinctive musical personality emerged. Thus a work such as the Kreutzer Sonata Quartet made clear his conversion to the concrete formalist ideal. He praised the ‘Czechness’ of Smetana’s music. By the end of his life therefore, Janáček had come to revere the music of both Smetana and Dvořák, dismissing the criticisms of those who had accused him of unfairly favouring Dvořák.

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Josef Suk
Cecil Parrott
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 42-47

     At Dvořák’s death his two most gifted pupils, Novák and Suk, were widely regarded as the leading Czech composers. Yet they never achieved the lofty status of their teacher. Their neo-romantic style went out of fashion. In contrast, the innovative work of the likes of Janáček and later Martinů galvanized interest. Novák and Suk were also caught up in the long-standing hostility between the Smetana and Dvořák camps. Influential press campaigns from the former discredited their music. In addition, Suk devoted much of his energy to playing with the Czech Quartet, limiting the amount he had for composition. On top of which the introspective music of his later years was thought by some to be morbid. But the quality of his melodies, the subtlety of his rhythms, the individuality of his harmonies, and his feeling for orchestral colour were also deeply appreciated and gained him the accolade of the ‘musician’s musician’.

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A Half Century with the Music of Bohuslav Martinů
Oldřich Korte
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 48-70]

     In contrast to the esteem in which he was held in his Paris years, and later during his exile in the United States, at the end of World War II Martinů’s music was little played in his homeland, though was soon to be introduced by musicians such as Kubelík and Firkušný. Despite being banned for a number of years by an oppressive Communist cultural regime, his unique style fascinated some of the younger generation of Czech composers. Following an unwritten ‘pardon’ by the authorities, Martinů quickly became the most performed living Czech composer. But he did not view the atmosphere in his homeland as welcoming enough to risk a return from exile. Following his death, there was a decline in public performances of his works. None the less, devotees continued to espouse his cause and despite all the official discouragement, his works continued to appear at the Prague Spring Festival. The Velvet Revolution created an altogether more open atmosphere which allowed Martinů’s music to thrive once more.

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Josef Suk’s Non-Obstinate Ostinato Movements : A Study of Harmony and Style
John K. Novak
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 71-91]

     Few composers have parodied their own works, as did Josef Suk. His particular parody caricatured a feature of his own style of composition: the pedal-point ostinato. By 1899-1900 Suk’s early phase of emulating Dvořák ended, and a more original voice appeared. A new musical language emerged from the emotional trauma of the deaths of Dvořák then of his wife: one of altogether more complex harmonies and chromaticism, particularly evident in his four orchestral masterpieces: Asrael Symphony; A Summer’s Tale; Ripening and Epilogue. In each the pedal ostinato element is evident. The trait is also present in Suk’s piano cycle, About Mother. Suk also parodies it in a concentrated or augmented form as in his Sentimental Self-Parody on a Street Song.
(Note that the article is illustrated by more than a dozen musical examples.

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Myth, Legend and a Little Poetic Licence
Karel Janovický
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 92-99]

     Archaeologists, artists and writers have for many decades sought to revive knowledge of the world of the early heathen Czechs. Key locations in this quest were Vyšehrad, Děvin and the ravine near Prague where Ctirad of the Šárka legend met his violent end. In response to the continuing oppression of the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy, the Czech nationalist revival movement of the early nineteenth century looked for inspiration from heroic Slav epics. Poets, artists and musicians drew on the Slav distant past, whether or not based on fact. Retelling of Czech myths and legends continued through the nineteenth century influencing, among others, Smetana, Janáček and Suk. One symbolist poet reversed the story of Šárka, so that the men wreaked vengeance on her warriors, returning the land to law and order under Přemsyl alone, free from female interference, reflecting nineteenth-century rather than early Slav mores.

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Johannes Sperger: A Neglected Composer from Valtice
Colin Saunders
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 101-113]

     Sperger, a famed double bass player, was also a prolific composer. Born in 1750, his first major professional advancement came when appointed in 1777 as sole double-bass in the orchestra of the Prince-Archbishop of Hungary in Bratislava. His six years here were among his most fruitful as a composer. Sperger then joined another Court orchestra at Kohfidisch in the Austrian Burgenland. Here fewer works were composed. From 1786 to 1789 he went on tour through Europe as a double-bass player, presenting copies of his music to the sponsors of his concerts. He was then appointed to the Ludwigslust Palace orchestra in Mecklenburg, where Rosetti was Kapellmeister. Here he remained until his death in 1812. Most of Sperger’s 260 works were instrumental, with few vocal or choral items. Many of his concertos were for double-bass. Not many of his compositions were printed at the time which perhaps accounts for their subsequent neglect.

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Charlotte Martinů (1894-1978): A Faithful Heart
Patrice Chevy
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 22 (2001-2002), pp. 116-124]

     Many of the 33 years that Charlotte and Bohuslav Martinů lived together were difficult ones, whether as a result of accommodation changes in the Paris years, exile in America, financial problems, or tensions within their personal relationships. Though in the United States Charlotte created a calm domestic environment which allowed her husband to devote himself to composition, there were major emotional crises resulting from his love affairs first with Kaprálová in Paris and then Roe Barstow in the United States. Nonetheless, after a period of indecision, Charlotte decided to stay with Bohuslav. In later years their relationship was less fraught. After her husband’s death, she devoted much of her energy to securing his artistic legacy. Helped by friends, she worked with publishers of his works and assisted Halbreich in his cataloguing of Martinů’s compositions. After her death in 1978, her body was transferred for burial at Polička, as were Martinů’s remains a year later.

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