Rhenish

Robert Schumann wrote four symphonies. The last of them, the third (don′t ask! …well, not yet, anyway) was dubbed – not by Schumann – The Rhenish. With the exception of one movement, it’s a rather jolly work and its nickname seems, for once, almost justified [seeming to conjure the great waterway (of course); jolly peasants; […]

Sphinx

No. 1  No. 2  No. 3  These mysterious groups of notes appear between the eighth (Replique) and ninth (Papillons) of Schumann’s Opus 9 collection of 21 piano pieces, Carnaval. If you remember, the Sphinx was famous for her riddles (What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?) And […]

Z mrtvého domu — From the House of the Dead

Z mrtvého domu (From the House of the Dead) is Janáček’s last opera, he died before he could finish editing the third/last act of the work. The libretto – written by the composer – is based on Dostoyevsky’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. More diary/reportage than novel, the Memoirs from the House of the Dead was based on Dostoyevsky’s own […]

To the woods!! To the woods!!

In contrast to the slightly less well-known stories of Mr. Brouček’s unfortunate entanglements with the moon and the 15th century, Janáček’s other comic opera is perhaps his most famous. The magical Příhody lišky Bystroušky (literally The Tales of Vixen Sharp-Ears) is better known in English as The Cunning Little Vixen. The story started its life as an illustrated […]

Loony tunes

Výlety pana Broučka na Měsíc – The Excursions of Mr. Brouček [English = Mr. (little) Beetle] to the Moon – is the first part of Leoš Janáček’s comic diptych Výlety páně Broučkovy [The Excursions of Mr. Brouček], the second half being set in the 15th century during the Hussite rebellion. Mr. Brouček, in addition to being a landlord and an […]

Ostrčil & Foerster

If – looking back to last week – Vítězslav Novák isn’t exactly a household name, his two contemporaries, Otakar Ostrčil and Josef Bohuslav Foester, are both most definitely in the same boat as him. All three were part of a generation overshadowed by Janáček and, to a lesser extent, Suk. And yet the Czech Music Information Centre […]