Bedřich Smetana – Memories of Bohemia in Polka Form, Op. 12
Leoš Janáček – On an Overgrown Path (1. series)
Vítězslav Novák – Memories, Op. 6
Luboš Fišer – Piano Sonata No. 8
Klement Slavický – Three Pieces for Piano
When the young Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884) was staying in Gothenburg, Sweden, he devoted his compositional efforts not only to symphonic poems, but especially to piano. The longing for his homeland was most evident in his piano works, especially in the polkas. But during this period, Smetana was also attracted again by Chopin, who certainly influenced him with his treatment of mazurkas. One such example is the Memories of Bohemia in Polka Form. The composer worked on the first two in A minor and E minor in December 1859 and they were first performed two years later in Prague.
The first series of the piano cycle of poetic pieces On the Overgrown Path by Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) was composed successively in 1900, 1908 and 1911. Janáček wrote the five pieces of the cycle in 1900, when he was 46 years old. They were published as small pieces for harmonium in the Slavonic Melodies booklets, published by the Ivančice teacher Emil Kolář. The expansion of the cycle was influenced by the editor Jan Branberger, who in 1908 contracted the publisher Bedřich Kočí in Prague to publish the compositions. This publisher’s interest in publishing the existing works led Janáček to compose further movements, so that the cycle grew to ten numbers, to which the composer attached poetic titles. The cycle was printed in 1911 by the publishing house of A. Píša. These small, intimate pieces reflecting some of the composer’s memories are now among his best known and most performed works.
Memories, a cycle of three piano pieces, was written by Vítězslav Novák (1870–1949) in a tense emotional state. The compositions originated in 1894, when the young composer was in love with Josefina Javůrková, and under the impression of intimate experiences, a work filled with emotion, desire and eroticism was created. It is one of the composer’s most impressive piano compositions.
Luboš Fišer (1935–1999) is one of our most played composers of the 20th century. His extensive work includes compositions of various character in the orchestral field, as well as vocal and chamber works. He is also an outstanding composer of numerous film and television scores. The most significant is his work for piano, with eight sonatas at its centre. The eighth and last one was created in 1996 after an eleven-year pause. Although it is the shortest (lasting just six minutes), it perfectly represents the composer’s style. It is a very concentrated, serious, somewhat pessimistic, but above all beautiful work.
Klement Slavický (1910–1999) is undoubtedly one of the most respected Czech artists of the 20th century. His Three Pieces for Piano were written in 1946-47, a very happy time for the composer. The short post-war period allowed Slavický to create freely, and his compositions began to be performed more frequently. All this ended in February 1948. The three piano pieces – Burlesca, Intermezzo, Toccata – are fresh, full of lightness, virtuosity and joy. The influence of Moravian folk music is not evident here, as we would expect from Slavický, rather it is an echo of the avant-garde of the past years, especially the works of Sergei Prokofiev.