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Thread: Czech composers

  1. #1
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Czech composers

    Here is a list of some Czech composers. Some I know better than others-

    Janacek
    Stamitz
    Smetana
    Martinu
    Dvorak
    Dussek
    Reicha
    Vanhal
    Zelenka

    I think most people are familar with works by Dvorak and Smetana, but I`m curious to know whether the works by some of the other composers are well-known. For example, I find the music of the baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka of the finest quality. He wrote some wonderful trio sonatas.

    Does anyone know any works by these composers that they like? Or works by other Czech composers not on the list?
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  2. #2
    Captain of Water Music
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    Josef Suk should be included as well, and Vitezslav Novak.. From your list, I’d say Janacek is very well known, especially to opera composers. I can certainly say that he is among my favorite composers, what with his big five operas – Jenufa, Kat’a Kabanova, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Case, and From the House of the Dead – and his superb orchestral works like Taras Bulba and the Sinfonietta. His string quartets are among the better from the 20th Century, and his piano works and Glagolitic Mass are also superb.

    I currently own recordings from about half of the others – Suk and Novak included – and would say these works are worth hearing:

    Smetana – String Quartets, Ma Vlast, The Bartered Bride, Piano Works

    Martinu – The Epic of Gilgamesh, String Quartets, Piano Concerto No 4 (the others ain’t shabby), Memorial to Lidice

    Suk – Asrael Symphony, Fantasy for Violin & Orchestra, A Summer’s Tale, The Ripening

    Novak – In the Tatra Mountains, Slovak Suite

    Dvorak – Symphonies 5-9 (of course), string quartets 9-14, piano trios, solo piano music, Slavonic Dances, the late tone poems, Rusalka, Sonatina for Violin & Piano

    The smattering of music I’ve heard from Vanhal and Stamitz is all melodic and enjoyable, if a bit lightweight when compared to the music from their more notable contemporaries.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Thanks for that, Todd. I haven`t heard any works by Suk, nor Novak, but I`ll keep my eyes/ears open.

    I guess I can assume that Zelenka is not very well-known. He wrote mostly sacred works (masses and so on) which I haven`t listened to yet, and some instrumental works, including six trio sonatas (no. 1,2,4,5 and 6 for two oboes, bassoon and basso continuo, in the third a violin replaces the second oboe.) Wonderful stuff.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  4. #4
    Apprentice, Piano
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    Mahler was born in the Czech Republic too.

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    Apprentice, Piano MaestroX's Avatar
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    I've played some piano pieces by Marintu. It was a piece called Columbine Dances No.1 from Puppets Vol.1 which i quite liked. I isn't a very difficult piece, but it enjoyable to play

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    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    I'm a particular fan of Czech music (and used to even be a member of the UK Dvorak society) as there is an astonishing amount of great music for a country of its size. Suk is probably the most underrated, despite a bit of a revivial in recent years, and the main symphonic cycle of Asrael, Summer's Tale, Ripening and Epilogue is an absolute must for any lover of late romantic orchestral music! Janacek is to me a God --his best operas (katja, cunning little vixen and Jenufa) are in a class of their own.

  7. #7
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dko22
    there is an astonishing amount of great music for a country of its size.
    Yes, I think that as well. I`ve heard good things about Suk, and have added your suggestions to my list of things to check out. Are you familiar with any of Zelenka`s work?
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


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    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Zelenka is not strictly speaking my period in music as I'm largely an unashamed romantic (I count Schubert,much later Beethoven and even the final works of Mozart as romantic!). But a long time ago a devotee got me to listen to one or two of the trio sonatas and I remember finding them striking and refreshing. Perhaps I should revisit?

  9. #9
    Recruit, Pianissimo
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    Speaking of czech composers, I have a question... I became obsessed by Zdenek Liska' s music for the film Fruit of Paradise...and now I am searching for any discography of him but with no luck. Any suggestions??

  10. #10
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Maybe try looking for it on ebay?
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  11. #11
    acciaccatura
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    Quote Originally Posted by dko22 View Post
    I'm a particular fan of Czech music (and used to even be a member of the UK Dvorak society) as there is an astonishing amount of great music for a country of its size. Suk is probably the most underrated, despite a bit of a revivial in recent years, and the main symphonic cycle of Asrael, Summer's Tale, Ripening and Epilogue is an absolute must for any lover of late romantic orchestral music! Janacek is to me a God --his best operas (katja, cunning little vixen and Jenufa) are in a class of their own.
    Vec Makropoulos is being staged in Copenhagen, DK right now. Unfortunately, I have no chance of attending...

    Like you, I am very fond of Janacek's music. Besides his operas, he made a Glagolitic Mass, a fantastic Sinfonietta, two incomparable string quartets and some really nice piano music, some of which (On an Overgrown Path, a multi-piece suite) is not overly difficult to play.

  12. #12
    Captain of Water Music Art Rock's Avatar
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    All the ones you listed are in my collection (and I agree, Suk should have been included). There are actually at least two Stamitzes: Johann and Carl.

  13. #13
    Captain of Water Music Ouled Nails's Avatar
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    The Moravian Leos Janacek created for himself a very unique musical language, one that even attracted the attention of a rock 'n roll band in the early 1970's! One of his students was Pavel Haas, a promising composer who died in Auschwitz in 1944. Czech composers go back in time and one should not overlook pioneers such as Pokorny, Reicha and Moscheles. Josef B. Foerster and Zdenek Fibich contributed much music during the romantic period, Foerster living a long life. I am just beginning to become acquainted with Foerster's work, but Fibich is really worth your investment.

  14. #14
    Seaman, Mezzoforte Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ouled Nails View Post
    The Moravian Leos Janacek created for himself a very unique musical language...
    A unique musical language indeed... Janacek was the first Czech composer to seriously incoorporate Czech speech patterns into the rhythms of his music, not just opera but his instrumental music as well.

    It is therefore a total disaster when international opera companies perform his works in German, such as Ozawa a few years back in Vienna. Not only does it badly distort the flow of the music, but in operas such as Jeji Pastorkyne (aka "Jenufa"), it misses the point of the opera entirely. In that opera, the symbiosis of the text with the rhythm is worked out painstakingly. Secondly, the text is not even in proper Czech, it is in a "Lazsky" dialect, adding an incredibly realistic time-and-place flavour to the drama.

    As far as the title is concerned, the proper title is indeed "Jeji Pastorkyne", which loosely translates to "Her foster-daughter" - a little clumsy in English (or German), therefore internationally it is performed under the title "Jenufa", but here in CZ the original is always used. "Her" refers to Kostelnicka while "Foster-daughter" refers to Jenufa. This title is ingenious in that it infers 2 title characters and their relationship, instead of just one.

  15. #15
    Captain of Water Music Ouled Nails's Avatar
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    Fascinating! Is Moravia simply a Czech region or does it correspond to a distinct ethnic enclave, with its own dialect? Based on what you state about the intrincate "marriage" of music and language, I also wonder if the interpreters matter a lot in this case. My only all-Czech recording of his operas is "The Cunning Little Vixen" with Bohumil Gregor directing the Chorus and Orchestra of the Prague National Theatre. The other operas I have are with Mackerras (spelling?). By the way, I love your very artistic "avatar"!

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