Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path (1st series)

In Remembrance, 1. X. 1905 (“From the Street“)

On an Overgrown Path (2nd series)

Christ, the Lord, Is Risen

Lesser Town Palace

A Recollection

In the Mists

Piano Thomas Adès


This piano recital by the important British composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès, who is one of today’s leading creative artists with works that are performed by orchestras and opera houses around the world, will be one of the absolute highlights of the whole festival. In 2016, his opera Powder Her Face was produced in Brno. However, the piano, which he studied from a young age at prestigious English schools, remains Adès´ greatest love. Janáček is one of his favourite composers and indeed he recently recorded Janáček´s complete works. All of Janáček’s important compositions intended for solo piano will be performed at the concert, along with several smaller occasional pieces.

The piano cycle of poetic compositions On an Overgrown Path was created gradually over the years of 1900, 1908 and 1911. Janáček wrote five compositions for the first series of the cycle in 1900. They were presented to the public as small pieces for the harmonium in textbooks entitled Slavonic Melodies published by Emil Kolář, a teacher in the village of Ivančice. Editor Jan Branberger, who arranged the publishing of the compositions with Prague publisher Bedřich Kočí in 1908, had an influence on the expansion of the cycle. The interest in the publishing of his current compositions led Janáček to compose further parts and thus expand the cycle to a total of ten works, which he gave poetic names. However, the proposed edition wasn’t published in the end, and after being rejected by another publisher, Mojmír Urbánek, the whole cycle was finally published in 1911 by Antonín Píša. In the same year, Janáček considered an expansion of the cycle to include a second series while he started working on three compositions, the first of which was published in the literary supplement of the Lidové noviny newspaper.

Another composition which will be presented during the evening is 1. X. 1905 (“From the Street”). This piece was created spontaneously in reaction to a tragedy which occurred during a demonstration for the foundation of the Brno Czech University. After years of efforts to create a Czech university in Brno, the government decided that Brno’s citizens should make the decision themselves. However, Brno was a predominantly German city and German municipal representatives were concerned that this would provide Czechs with an increase in influence. They declared a “Volkstag” on 1st October 1905, inviting German associations and organizations from the wide surrounding area to Brno in order to demonstrate their disapproval over the founding of a Czech university in Brno. The Czech inhabitants of Brno reacted by organizing a large anti-German demonstration. The result was street fighting between both camps, requiring intervention from the police and later the army. During one of the clashes, young Czech worker František Pavlík was killed near Brno’s Community Hall. This tragic event prompted Janáček to write the composition From the street I. X. 1905. It was originally in three movements, but he burned the last movement immediately before its Brno premiere on 27. January 1906 and after the next performance in Prague he actually threw the whole manuscript into the Vltava River. The work was first performed by pianist Ludmila Tučková, who luckily kept a copy of the original, though she waited till 1924 to reveal it to the public. Thanks to her, this piano composition, which had been forgotten for many years by both the composer and all around him, was preserved.

Janáček completed his piano cycle In the Mists in April 1912. Not long before that, in 1910, he had moved to a new house in the garden of the Organ School with his wife and housekeeper and there composed his last extensive work for solo piano, with broken self-confidence and in a dejected state. He began work on it shortly after hearing piano compositions by the French composer Claude Debussy and it’s no coincidence that his dreamy, melancholic work includes elements of musical impressionism. The cycle In the Mists won first prize in a contest for composers organised by the Club of Friends of Art, which was supposed to publish the winning work. However, Janáček gave the opportunity to publish the composition to his pupil Jaroslav Kvapil, the second prizewinner of the competition. The cycle In the Mists was performed for the first time by Marie Dvořáková in Kroměříž on 7th December 1913.

Christ, the Lord, Is Risen is a small adaptation which Janáček published at Christmas 1909 in the Lidové noviny newspaper as part of the column named Internal Lights. A Recollection is a similarly tiny piece which the composer wrote in 1928 at the request of Yugoslav composer and musicologist Miloj Milojevic for the Belgrade magazine Muzika.

Jiří Zahrádka