Composing and Hoping for a Quick Russian Victory

janacek sonata-1
Rugged and interlaced. © Charles Thibo

A different kind of harmony, melodies unlike anything you have heard before, a sentimental gentleness, a single tear running down a cheek – adieu? Or rather “Na shledanou”? Leos Janacek was Czech and thus “na shledanou” is probably more correct. But good-bye to whom or what? To innocence perhaps? In 1914 Janacek composed his Sonata for Violin and Piano (JW VII/7), at a time where he focused on chamber music if he wasn’t following the news: World War I had broken, out and Janacek remembered: “…in the 1914 Sonata for violin and piano I could just about hear sound of the steel clashing in my troubled head…”.

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In the Realm of Expressive Excellence

Janacek Mladi
Mysterious ways. © Charles Thibo

Some pieces make me forget time and space. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto for instance. Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise”. Some books make me forget time and space too. Books like Reiner Stach’s biography on Franz Kafka. Three volumes and an annex, several thousand pages, a wonderful gift. Diving into Franz Kafka’s world, diving into the life in Prague at the turn of the 19th century and into the mysteries of the mind and the emotions of this enigmatic writer – what a pleasure! I discovered Kafka very late, in the summer of 2017, by now I rank him as one of those writers that fascinate me most.

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From Moravia with Much Passion

Martinu suite strings-1
Good morning! © Charles Thibo

Here is one sweet way to start a day! No, not Bach, there’s more than one composer that makes me feel enthusiastic at sunrise. For much too long I have neglected the Czech composer Leos Janacek, but the previous post on Bohuslav Martinu’s trio and the research it required made me discover quite a few recordings of Janacek’s orchestral music that I did not know about yet. Janacek’s Suite for String Orchestra (JW VI/2) was written in 1877; thus it is one of the composer’s earlier works. He was only 23 years old, a young musician, a poor student about to finish his education at the Prague Organ School.

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Entangled in Janacek’s tragedies and love affairs

The Quatuor Zaïde is a promising French ensemble. © Jean-Pierre Domingue/NoMadMusic
The Quatuor Zaïde is a promising French ensemble. © Jean-Pierre Domingue/NoMadMusic

What a loss! On August 12, 1928 the Czech composer Leos Janacek died. And shortly before his death, he produced two of the works that I am tempted to label as the best he wrote. Who knows, what masterpieces Janacek would have composed, had he lived on! The Quartet for strings No. 2 was completed in 1928, five years after the Quartet for strings No. 1. We have met Janacek already as the composer of that beautiful piano cycle “On an overgrown path”, performed by the Luxembourg pianist Cathy Krier. Today I would like to present the French Quatuor Zaïde and it’s interpretation of the two mentioned chamber music works. Continue reading!