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Thread: Leos Janacek

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    Default Leos Janacek

    A big innovator in early C20th music even though he was born in the middle of the C19th. While some composers who reached their 60's don't compose much of consequence, Janacek's late works are his greatest, including several operas, the mighty Glagothic Mass, and the passionate String Quartets. The Sinfonietta (innacurately named as it is scored for a huge orchestra) and the earlier symphonic rhapsody Taras Bulba are also worthy of mention.

    He definitely did not compromise in his music, and wrote what he felt. Some criticised him for this, saying he was negating the music of his friend and compatriot Dvorak or the earlier Smetana. In some ways, he had a quite wierd and idiosyncratic way of composing (eg. writing down in musical notation some passionate conversation he overheard, or the clucking of hens). He was a different drummer playing his own tune, but this fact just enhances my appreciation of his unique style. One of my favourite composers and, although he was of an earlier generation, his works can seem just as startling and bold as Stravinsky, Bartok or Hindemith.

    What do people think?

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I think his String Quartet No. 1 "Kruetzer" is the first string quartet I actually sat down and paid attention to so that I finally "got" string quartets and other chamber works. Before that I was mainly interested in big symphonic pieces and compared chamber works, especially string quartets, to boring black and white pencil drawings as opposed to full blown paintings.

    Maybe I was just ready and some other string quartet would have done as well, but I'll always remember this work as the first chamber piece that caught my ear with it's brilliant sonorities and odd colorings for just the four instruments. Not yet really enjoying chamber works, I was not familiar with Beethoven's Kruetzer sonata which this is supposed to quote or emulate somewhere -- though I have yet to find where.

    Anyway, I like black and white pencil drawings too now.
    Bas likes this.

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    Senior Member PostMinimalist's Avatar
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    And his orchestral works are fun to play too! I did Taras Bulba with the BBCSSO years ago and I remember the last few pages which are just magical for the bass section. More recently I played another piece for small string orchestra which had some very tough stuff but Janacek is definitely one of these composers whose work repay a bit of serious practice. His orchestration in also particularly bold and some orchesral managers cringe when they see Sinfonietta come up on the program because they know they then have to find a whole army of trumpets in all shapes and sizes! I personally find bits of the 'Glag' almost metaphysical. As you said he wrote what he wanted and the rest be damned!
    GO Janacek

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    Senior Member andruini's Avatar
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    Janácek is one of my all time favorites.. I just wet myself in rapture everytime I get to hear the Sinfonietta or the Glagolitic Mass or Taras Bulba.. I also really love From The House of the Dead.. but some of my favorite Janácek works are his choral pieces, like the Songs of Hradcany, The Wolf's Trial, Kaspar Rucký.. I've also got a soft spot for his Lachian Dances and the Cunning Little Vixen Suite..
    One of the most fascinating figures to me in European music..

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    I admire the piano works and,of course, Taras Bulba.

    Jim

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    Without exaggeration, I haven't heard a work by Janáček I didn't like. I started with the two string quartets, of which the second is among my favourite compositions ever (as I wrote in the 10 classical favourites thread), then moved on to orchestral, and in the end got acquainted with the piano works and the chamber concertos (btw, those are my least favourite pieces of his). All of his orchestral pieces are originally and inimitably orchestrated.

    Taras Bulba and the Glagolitic Mass are metaphysical indeed.

    Milan Kundera said something about Janáček's music being so special because it expresses unexpressible emotions. I think he's close to a perfect description.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    I like Janacek a lot. "Taras Bulba," "Sinfonietta," "Glagolitic Mass," "The Cunning Little Vixen," "Lachian Dances," and "Suite for String Orchestra." I wish he would have composed more orchestral music.

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    I've just re-acquainted myself with Janacek's mighty Glagolitic Mass, after hearing it years ago on radio (& I was as impressed then as I am now). This is a very monumental work, as some people have said, it's metaphysical, connected to the composer's 'pantheistic' view of nature, as the cd notes say.

    Another late work, on the same Kubelik disc, is The diary of the one who disappeared. It's a song-cycle for tenor, contralto, female chorus and piano. Is it just me, or is it a bit wierd to hear a work in German by a Czech composer? Anyway, I have really enjoyed listening to Janacek's music, I also have some of his orchestral works & the string quartets, and I look forward to getting some of his piano works...
    Contrasts and Connections in Music

    "Oh! It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."
    - Algernon Moncrieff (in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest).

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    I loooove Janacek.... But I guess I feel that way for every other composer too.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

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    i like his piano music. v mlhách (in the mists), sonata 1.x.1905 and po zarostlém chodníčku (on an overgrown path) i and ii are all great

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Sinfonietta was one of my first loves in classical music.

    And the first opera i went to was Janaceks Makropolous Case at the dutch opera with Cheryl Barker.
    Amazing

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    I'm a pretty big fan of short pieces, and his book "On An Overgrown Path" really delivers.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Yes, his piano works are great, as I have found out for myself recently. I just got the DG 2 CD set which contain most of his works for this instrument, as interpreted by Rudolf Firkusny, who was actually taught by Janacek as a young boy.

    These works, although written in the first quarter of the C20th, are so modern (even by today's standards), that they could have been written decades later. They are also very unique, not copying the usual Romantic or Impressionist styles. There's a certain directness, but also much warmth and intimacy. Of particular note is the Sonata 1.X.1905 "From the street," which was written in memory of a worker who was killed by Austrian troops when a demonstration in Janacek's home city of Brno was brutally supressed. There's much emotion & pathos here, but it's not heart-on-your-sleeve, it's more understated. The work we hear today is incomplete, lacking a final movement, as the composer burnt that (which shows his impulsive and self-critical character). Luckily, the two remaining portions of the manuscript were secretly saved by a pianist, which were later allowed to be published when Janacek changed his mind.

    Another interesting work on this set is the Concertino for piano & chamber orchestra. It is oddly scored, with seperate instruments accompanying the soloist in each movement. It is exactly this quirkiness & offbeat quality that draws me to Janacek, because I am somewhat tired of the usual classical cliches. What you get here is something that still sounds fresh, challenging and new, even after all these decades have passed.

    It's interesting how Janacek really came into his own when he was in his fifties. Then in his sixties, he met Kamila Stosslova, who was to become not only a good (platonic) friend, but also his muse. Then a flood of these very original and memorable works began flowing from his pen. One would never think this listening to early works, like the Suite for Strings, which has traces of Dvorak, Haydn & Tchaikovsky. He was a late bloomer and we can all be thankful for that, perhaps this accounts for the depth and maturity of his greatest works.
    Contrasts and Connections in Music

    "Oh! It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."
    - Algernon Moncrieff (in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest).

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    I admire Janacek. He is a composer with a very unique sound. He composed exactly what he heard in his head and what he heard was truly unique.

    The Glagolitic Mass is incredible. The music sounds ancient and modern at the same time. It very well could be his orchestral masterpiece.

    After Dvorak, Janacek should be considered the most important Czech composer, and he should certainly be counted as one of the most unique composers of his time. A visionary, even.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Senior Member oskaar's Avatar
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    Janacec`s string quartets ar fantastic! The "kreutzer" is both named as piano trio and string quartet....
    Il_Penseroso and jalex like this.

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