A Step Behind the Curtain with Her Stepdaughter
Celebrate the European Music Feast with us! We’ve prepared for you a special version of our educational program A Step Behind the Curtain. This time, however, we aren’t going to take you to the stage of the Janáček Theatre. Instead, we’ll all meet at Moravské náměstí and led by chief conductor Marko Ivanović and together with soloists Maida Hundeling, Veronika Hajnová-Fialová, Jaroslav Březina as well as the orchestra of the Janáček Opera of the Brno National Theatre, we’ll set out to discover the secret of Her Stepdaughter, one of the most beautiful operas by Janáček. Free entry
We would like to invite you to the performance of excellent Bennewitz Quartet in Villa Tugendhat on October 30, 2017. In one of the icons of modern architecture, built for the German-Jewish Tugendhat family, two significant compositions will be played, belonging to the most crucial pieces of Czech chamber music. Concerning string quartets, the Czech music is unique not only in terms of the number of ensembles, but mainly thanks to a huge volume of quartet literature our composers have created. However, two pieces are especially unique. String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, “From My Life”, by Bedřich Smetana, and Quartet for Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, “Intimate Letters”, by Leoš Janáček. Even though Janáček was quite critical of the work of the founder of the Czech national music, it is these two pieces that connect both the composers, as they are very emotionally tense compositions that tell the story of lives of their authors using musical means. The Smetana’s first quartet was composed more than one year after his loss of hearing in 1876. He composed it in seclusion, far from social life, in Jabkenice, and it was that year when it turned out that his loss of hearing was permanent and irreversible. Smetana, however, faced this fate – terrifying not only for composers – by working very hard, and the quartet reminds of his musical life story, from happy moments to the fateful loss of hearing. As Smetana wrote: “I wanted to depict the course of my life in tones. My quartet is no formal play with tones, so that the composer can show of; I just wanted to present an image from my life to the listeners.”
Fifty years later, a similar motif led Janáček to compose the second quartet, even though his narrative contains a different type of message. With its intimacy, emotionality, and tense character it follows a line Smetana brought to Czech quartet compositions, though. Janáček composed the quartet in 1928, the last year of his life. Despite being very exhausted by his work on From the House of the Dead, he felt the urge to compose an intimate confession besides the rather general attitude expressed in the opera. The Intimate Letters are – as their former name Love Letters suggests – a musical confession to Janáček’s muse Kamila Stösslová, 37 years younger than him.
In February 1928 he wrote to her: “I have begun to write something nice. It will be about our life, and it will be called Love Letters. I think it will sound just lovely. So many nice things we have enjoyed together! They will be like small fires in my soul, heating it up to create the most beautiful of melodies. Just imagine! I created the first part already in Hukvaldy. What I felt when I saw you for the first time! Now, I am working on the second part, and I think it will light up in the hot [blackened text] in Luhačovice. And the whole piece will be held together by a very special instrument called Viola D’amour – Viola of Love. Oh, how much I am looking forward to it! When working, I will be always only with you! Nobody else with us. So much of the desire just like there with you, in our heaven! I will so much enjoy working on it!“ Janáček worked very hard and finished the quartet in mere twenty days. He managed to correct it during rehearsals with the Moravian Quartet, but didn‘t live long enough to see its premiere. From My Life by Smetana and Janáček’s Intimate Letters are among the most crucial compositions ever written for a string quartet.
This recital of excellent singer Simona Houda-Šaturová, accompanied by Martin Kasík, takes place on December 8, 2017. The interior of the Villa Löw-Beer together with the compositions by three authors closely related to Brno and renowned all over the world will only intensify the exceptional character of the concert. A selection from Janáček’s Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs, one of the most remarkable compositions of his folkoristic period, will be performed. Another author is Vítězslava Kaprálová, daughter of composer Václav Kaprál who was a student of Leoš Janáček; not only was she a charismatic girl who enchanted Bohuslav Martinů, but mainly she was an exceptionally talented composer and conductor. Unfortunately, she died being only 25 years old, but she composed several pieces that clearly show how talented she was.
One of them is Waving Farewell from 1937, which she composed when she was finishing her studies in Vítězslav Novák’s class. Her musical inwardness and lyricism in an unrepeatable way intensify the poetics by Vítězslav Nezval, the author of the poem. The third composer is Pavel Haas, perhaps the most talented of Janáček’s students. He was one of the few influenced by Janáček’s musical speech who managed to masterfully connect it with the then avant-garde movements as well as with his authentic Jewish musicality. Simply put, Haas was an absolutely original composer whose hopeful career was tragically ended in a concentration camp in 1944. His seldom played cycle named Seven Songs in Folk Style from 1939-1940 was composed in a very oppressive time for Haas. In order to protect his wife and daughter from the consequences of the Nuremberg laws he decided to file for divorce and leave the family, and this situation quite likely made him return to Moravian folk songs and his teacher Leoš Janáček. This song cycle is an example of his masterful connection of folk songs with an accompaniment composed in a modern way.