Songs from Leoš Janáček´s collections

Performers Q VOX, Danaj Dulcimer Band, Marína female choir (Zvolen), Martin Jakubíček – organ


Folk songs were a faithful companion to Janáček throughout his life. He first made their acquaintance in his birthplace, Hukvaldy, among the common people, at school under the leadership of his father and teacher. During his studies in Brno, he became a pupil of Pavel Křížkovský, whose choir compositions were based on Moravian folk songs collected through the efforts of František Sušil. As a music teacher, Janáček was in close contact with another great collector of folk songs in Moravia, František Bartoš, who compiled a large collection of Moravian songs with musical arrangements by Janáček. The period around the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition in Prague (1895) can be called Janáček’s classic folk period. It lasted for about 20 years, though his love of folk songs stayed with him right up to the end of his life, when he was involved in preparing a great collection of Moravian Love Songs with Pavel Váša.

For Leoš Janáček, folk songs were the source of national melodies - he was convinced that his compositions are a continuation of folk songs, the playing and compositions of folk singers, dulcimer players, bagpipers and other rural musicians. As an artist, he made use of all the possibilities which the thorough study of folk songs afforded him. He was able to incorporate snatches of folk tunes into his work, he used their melodies for artistic stylization, he made numerous adaptations for singing and piano, for solo piano, for male and mixed choir, and he also adapted Slovak brigand ballads. He got so deep into the stylistic symbols of Moravian folk songs that for his operas he was able to create his own songs in the folk spirit which were undistinguishable from authentic ones. He was convinced that the Slavonic folk song would shape the development of music in the same way as the Gregorian chant once did a long time ago.

The programme entitled Love Herbs offers the audience a taste of Janáček´s folklore collection work at several levels of stylization. Artificial as well as more rustic interpretations will be heard, in both solo and choral forms, as a source of inspiration for musical improvisation. The artificial level is represented by Brno’s male singing quartet Q VOX, while a folkloristic approach is taken by CM Danaj from Strážnice with its soloists Magdalena Múčková and Jan Gajda, and the female choir Marína from Zvolen provides an authentic counterbalance. The austere but extraordinary dimension of the programme is supplemented by excellent jazz improviser and organ player Martin Jakubíček. The programme is accompanied by reproduced quotations from Leoš Janáček related to folk song and music.