1. Czechs old and new(ish)

My claim, in the flier for this course, that Smetana, Dvořák, Suk and Janáček – are four of the most famous Czech composers isn’t, I believe, an actual fib, but it is an important to stress that Bohemia and Moravia have a history of producing distinguished composers (and performers) that stretches back way before the birth of the of the aforementioned nineteenth/twentieth century tetrarchy.

The portraits above the more familiar photos will serve to illustrate my point. From left to right they are Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber who preceded the Mozarts in Salzburg and is famous for his Mystery Sonatas for violin; Jan Václav Antonín Stamic (Stamitz) father of Carl and Anton all of Mannheim School fame and a well thought of early symphonist; Jan Václav Dusík (Dussek) one of the first of the great piano virtuosi, who collaborated with the instrument maker, John Broadwood, in England on improvements in piano construction; and, finally, Jan Křtitel Vaňhal (Wanhal) who was admired by Haydn and Mozart and managed to write 73 symphonies. And what about Christoph Willibald Gluck, he of Orfeo et Euridice who was also born in Bohemia…

But these earlier composers mostly espoused some sort of pan-European musical lingua franca; there was little that was specifically Czech about their music. It was with the rise of nationalism that composers (Smetana) started exploring the rich and varied resources of Czech folk music.

So, two examples of the pan-European, pre-nationalist styles…

By Biber…

… and Johann Stamitz:

I. Allegro
II. Larghetto
III. Presto


…and then something that’s about as nationalist as you can get:

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