Leoš Janáček Zdenka Variations, On an Overgrown Path – 1st series (selection), In the Mists, Moravian Dances (Čeladenský, The Saws)

Jan Jiraský Piano

23. 11. 2018 | Tickets 24. 11. 2018 | Tickets

During the morning matinée in the composer´s house, a piano recital will be performed by an excellent performer of Janáček´s music, Jan Jiraský, on an authentic Erhbar piano which was given to the composer as a wedding gift. It will be completely restored in the second half of 2018.

The piano composition Thema con variazioni, or also Zdenka Variations, was highly valued by Janáček at the time of its creation. He labelled it opus number 1, even though he had written many other compositions before. It was created at the beginning of 1880 while the composer was studying at Leipzig Conservatory. He wrote it under the leadership of his professor, Leo Grill, and devoted it to his fiancée, Zdenka Schulzová. It was an important piece of work for Janáček in which he tested his own ability to compose in the styles of Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Brahms and Bach-Busoni.

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.

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.

Moravian Dances comprises two dances, Čeladenský and The Saws. Janáček probably composed them in 1904, and they are evidence of Janáček´s interest in Moravian folk music and culture in general.

Jiří Zahrádka