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 25 (Abstract)

Contents of this page

The Piano Rhapsodies of Jan Václav Voříšek
Kenneth Delong
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 25 (2007-2008), pp. 41-61

     In the early nineteenth century many composers challenged the domination of the sonata as the natural pianistic medium, and sought different forms. Pianist-composers turned to writing works that displayed their technical prowess. In addition to the sonata and virtuoso literature, a new genre emerged in the piano lyric piece, a form characteristic of the transition from classicism to romanticism. Two Bohemian composers, Tomášek and Voříšek, made important contributions to this development. Jan Václav Voříšek (1791-1825) in his short life devoted most of his attention to piano writing, including twenty five-lyric pieces, particularly in the form of rhapsodies and impromptus. The Twelve Rhapsodies (Op. 1) were his first important piano works. Though less sophisticated than later compositions, and much influenced by his teacher Tomášek, they revealed a distinctive musical personality. Voříšek’s piano works also reflected his admiration for J.S. Bach and Beethoven, and there is evidence of the former’s contrapuntal influence in two of the rhapsodies. The musical content of the rhapsodies was immediately accessible, making them popular for domestic performance. They were soon to be deemed old-fashioned, however, and had no obvious impact on subsequent works in this form. Though Voříšek’s later piano works were of larger scope and polish, the rhapsodies nevertheless contain, in their finer moments, some of the best music he composed.

  top of page

Smetana’s Illness Unravelled
Marie Kulijevyčová
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 25 (2007-2008), pp. 62-68

     This article, translated from a paper in a Czech journal of 2009, explores the controversies surrounding a long-accepted interpretation of the root cause of Smetana’s debilitating illnesses in the later years of his life. Most damaging to his reputation was the widespread belief that they were the result of acquired syphilitic infection caught earlier in his life. The author is critical of the motivations of those who have promoted this hypothesis, and brings to bear a range of more recent scientific evidence offering interpretations which serve to rebut the long-standing moral besmirching of the composer.

  top of page

Dvořák’s Abodes and Travels During the First Years of His Marriage
David Beveridge
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 25 (2007-2008), pp. 69-118]

     The first years of Dvořák’s marriage were marked by a large-scale outpouring of works. These included two symphonies, the Stabat Mater, the String Serenade, the Moravian Duets, and four of his eleven operas. This new fecundity, building on the stability of his marriage, was the more remarkable in that he wasnot only living in straightened financial circumstances, but was also suffering from the tragedy of the first three of his children dying in infancy.
With the help of maps, photographs and footnotes the author explores in detail the various lodgings and independent apartments through which Dvořák and his wife moved in Prague in the early years of their marriage. During this period the composer made an increasing number of trips, including a visit to Vienna in 1875, where he attended concerts, and to different destinations in Bohemia and Moravia. Included in the latter were excursions with Janáček.
These first years of Dvořák’s marriage were marked by the move into a more permanent residence and the momentous news that Brahms had recommended his Moravian Duets to his own publisher Simrock, who followed up by asking Dvořák to write some Slavonic Dances. These events were harbingers of one of the favourable changes to come in his personal life, his next six children going on to out-live him.

  top of page

Talich: On the Problem of National Purification (Part 1)
Jiří Křest’an
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, 25 (2007-2008), pp. 119-162]

     An official gathering in the Smetana Hall in June 1942, shortly after the assassination of Heydrich and the brutal Nazi repression which followed, was marked by a speech from the then Czech Minister of Culture eulogising the impact of the Third Reich on the Czech nation. It was followed by a contribution from Vacláv Talich, which on the face of it similarly lauded the impact of German music on Czech culture, concluding that Czechs should avail themselves of the benefits of the Reich and its great leader.
Earlier, in the pre-war period, Talich had regularly been provoked by the virulent critic Nejedlý, as part of his stoking up of conflict between the camps of the so-called ‘smetanaites’ and ‘dvořákists’, condemning what he alleged to be the reactionary culture of the latter group. Talich was, however, not only a devotee of Dvořák and associated composers, but was equally impressed by the musical qualities of Smetana and the others whom Nejedlý regarded with favour. Among other skirmishes Talich was the subject of an indignant outburst on his appointment to take charge of the National Theatre, with Nejedlý having advocated the conductor Jeremiáš for the post.
At the end of World War II, Talich assumed he would be conducting a ceremonial performance of Smetana’s Libuše to mark the reopening of the National Theatre. He was, however, blocked on the grounds that his alleged collaboration during the Nazi period had to be examined. Nejedlý accused Talich of treachery. He was duly arrested, interrogated and for a brief period imprisoned. His release after five weeks was said to be on medical grounds. In his defence Talich recalled the feelings of humiliation and anxiety when he made his notorious Smetana Hall speech of 1942, insisting that the pro-German propaganda had been edited in by the authorities. He vehemently denied any collaboration, though accepting he had feared for his welfare had he not agreed to make the speech. In November 1945 the Union of Czech Performing Artists exonerated Talich. Even so there were warnings that his reappearance would provoke protests from workers and young people. In the event his artistic reinstatement was a success.
Calmer times followed until late in December 1947 when Talich suffered a stroke, which was followed by the Communist takeover early in 1948. Once more he was in disgrace. He was dismissed from the National Opera by the new Minister of Culture, who happened to be Nejedlý. Gradually, however, he was allowed back into Czech and Slovak musical life, conducting concerts and making recordings. In 1957 the title of National Artist was bestowed upon Talich by the national President. But his health was failing fast and it had become too late for him consciously to regard it as adequate recompense for the attacks on his reputation he had been through.

   top of page