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Fantasy and obsession

Donald Macleod assesses Janáček’s compulsive need for his muse of later years, Kamila Stösslova, with excerpts from Kat’a Kabanova and the Diary of One Who Disappeared.

Donald Macleod assesses Janáček’s compulsive need for his muse of later years, Kamila Stösslova, with excerpts from Kat’a Kabanova and the Diary of one who disappeared.

One of the most original voices of the twentieth century, Leoš Janáček was a composer, musical theorist, folklorist and teacher. Born in 1854 in the Moravian village of Hukvaldy, which was then part of the Austrian Empire, in his youth German was the language of government, education and social influence. Having returned from studies in Germany, Janáček made detailed studies of native folk song and spent years annotating the natural rhythms of the Czech language. He was to write all his works for stage in his native language. The range of his professional activities gave him a range of outlets to voice what quickly became a life-long commitment to Czech culture.

Janáček was a contradictory man, who spent much of his life feeling at odds with his circumstances. Through five of his closest relationships, Donald Macleod builds a picture of how his inner tensions found expression in his music. The longest and most fractured of his associations was with his German-speaking wife Zdenka. After a shaky start, he grew very close to his daughter Olga, with whom he shared his love of Russian literature. His friendship with the literary collaborator Max Brod proved to be the turning point in his quest for professional standing, while his muse Kamila Stösslova became the joy and agony of his later, creatively enriched years. As a young man Janáček turned to Antonín Dvořák. They shared an interest in folk music, and the older composer proved to be a loyal friend and mentor.

By the time he was in his sixties Janáček’s life was already littered with flirtations and affairs, but the deep passion the young, married woman of twenty-six, Kamila Stösslova roused in him triggered his musical imagination.

Kat’a Kabanova – Act 3 excerpt
Elisabeth Söderström, soprano, Katĕrina
Jaroslav Souček, baritone, Kuligin
Petr Dvorský, tenor, Boris
Vienna Philharmonic
Vienna State Opera Chorus
Charles Mackerras, conductor

The diary of one who disappeared (excerpt)
Nicky Spence, tenor
Václava Housková, mezzo-soprano
Victoria Couper, Clemmie Franks, Emily Burn, voices
Julius Drake, piano

Quartet for strings no. 2: Intimate Letters
4th movement : Allegro
Belcea Quartet

Glagolitic Mass – Credo
Tomáš Juhás, tenor
Aleš Bárta, organ
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Tomáš Netopil, conductor

23 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Leos Janáček

    Vzpominka (Reminiscence)

    Performer: Thomas Adès.
    • EMI CDC 5572192.
    • EMI CDC 5572192.
    • 38.
  • Leos Janáček

    Katya Kabanova: Act III (final monologue)

    Performer: Petr Dvorský. Singer: Elisabeth Söderström. Singer: Jaroslav Souček. Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Choir: Chor der Wiener Staatsoper. Conductor: Charles Mackerras.
    • Decca 421 8522.
    • Decca 421 8522.
    • 6.
  • Leos Janáček

    The Diary of One Who Disappeared (excerpt)

    Performer: Václava Housková. Performer: Victoria Couper. Performer: Clemmie Franks. Performer: Emily Burn. Performer: Julius Drake. Singer: Nicky Spence.
    • Hyperion CDA 68282.
    • Hyperion CDA 68282.
    • 6.
  • Leos Janáček

    String Quartet No 2 (Intimate Letters) (4th movement)

    Ensemble: Belcea Quartet.
    • Zig Zag 760009 290112.
    • Zig Zag 760009 290112.
    • 8.
  • Leos Janáček

    Glagolitic Mass (Credo)

    Performer: Aleš Bárta. Performer: Prague Radio So. Singer: Tomas Juhas. Choir: Pražský filharmonický sbor. Conductor: Tomáš Netopil.
    • Supraphon SU41502.
    • Supraphon SU41502.
    • 4.

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