Volume III, Number 2
on Janáček, Monteverdi, Stage Music and Stoicism
Miloš Štědroň (b. February 9, 1942, in Brno) studied musicology and Czech at the Philosophical Faculty of J. E. Purkyně (now Masaryk) University in Brno, where he graduated in 1964. He went on to study composition at the Janáček Academy of Music, Brno, taking almost parallel classes with Alois Piňos, Miloslav Ištvan, Ctirad Kohoutek and Jan Kapr. He completed his training as a composer in 1970-72 with postgraduate studies in experimental and electro-acoustic music at the Janáček Academy and scholarships abroad in Darmstadt (1969), Vienna, Belgium and the Netherlands.
In 1963, while still engaged in studies, he started to work as an assistant in the music history department of the Moravian Museum, where he later ran the Small Music Theatre. In 1972 he joined the Department of Musicology at the Philosophical Faculty of what today is Masaryk University, where in 1988 he obtained his "habilitation" as a senior lecturer on the basis of work on Janáček with which he had earlier gained a doctorate. Now he is a regular professor and Vice-Dean of the MU Philosophy Faculty. For many years he has also lectured on the theory of composition and other disciplines at the Janáček Academy of Music. His musicological interests are focused on 20th-century music and the epoch of the renaissance, mannerism and baroque.
At the beginning of his professional musical career, Štědroň was principally interested in the theory and history of music, but in the mid-1970s he turned more and more to composition. Thanks to many years of work with theatre companies, and especially Brno's famous Theatre on a String, he developed his own effective approach to contemporary theatre music. The dominating presence in Štědroň's creative and conceptual life is music of old styles, to which he responds as realizer and above all as composer, systematically linking up and transforming the principles of older and contemporary musical art. He uses the methods of collage, montage and devices leading to banalization, alienation or direct parody. The centre of gravity of Štědroň's work is concertante music written for ensembles of chamber type and conceptually triggered by highly personal subjects within the context of contemporary musical thought. Many of his pieces are inspired by folk music and both folk and non-traditional instruments are often found in his instrumentation. He is well known for his work with many famous contemporary music groups (Due Boemi, DAMA DAMA, Ars Inkognita and others) at home and abroad. His name is also closely associated with the performance of some of Janáček's incomplete compositions (The Danube Symphony, the Pilgrimage of the Soul Violin Concerto and others) which he has finished and prepared for performance with Leoš Faltus. He has also been involved in the critical edition of the complete works of Janáček.
Štědroň is the author of a great deal of stage and film music and is one of the most sought-after composers in this field. He has published a whole series of academic publications, the most recent being a remarkable three-hundred page monograph last year on Janáček and the music of the 20th century. He holds many awards for his composition and theoretical work.
You are one of the best-known international experts on the works of Leoš Janáček. Why Janáček?
First of all, and without any attempt at modesty - what do you mean by best-known? I could think of some better adjectives! It's always like that in art - a reputation as expert means a daily battle with time, and sources, and with oneself, with clichés, and the media that wants ..."three pages on Janáček with a difference," and with all the other windmills of the same kind. That's the underside of expertise. And why Janáček? Well, it's probably because it would be hard to find a composer with such a contrast between his biological and musical life. I mean that he was born in 1854, but in the last two or three decades of his life he was composing in a way that still puts him in the ranks of avantgarde art, if there's any such thing any more, and the activity hasn't been swallowed up in the shifting sands of postmodernism.
Not long ago you published a remarkable monograph on Janáček. What further plans do you have in this area?
I and my team of co-workers are preparing an edition of all Janáček's "speech-melodies." For a long time I've believed that it's something that should be published, both on paper using facsimiles or a transcription with commentary and in some acoustic form that we have not yet quite decided on - although probably using a vocoder and probably not a live performer since we would want to insure the objectivity of the transfer of these forms into acoustic mode. Perhaps this will put an end to the myths surrounding these melodies, and show what they were, what they weren't, or what they transitionally became. In any case we shall have a dictionary of the spoken language as a result, and that will be important in itself.
Your second love is the renaissance and Monteverdi. Do you think there's a connection between this and the world of Janáček?
The connection between the 16th and 20th centuries is relevant, useful and ever more frequently noted. Mannerism and huge changes in thought, mentality, production, perception of the world and so on in the two epochs easily invite comparison. And so the world of Venosa, Monteverdi and Shakespeare, a time that was "out-of-joint" feels close to us and our disjointed time. But I think that the distance is the important aspect. Epochs that adjoin and follow on from each other have few links. That is why Josef Dobrovský had such a negative relation to the Czech late baroque, like the whole Czech revival movement.
You enjoy using all kinds of historical references and touches. Do these provide you with a "fixed point" in the changeable and unstable world of contemporary music?
Historicisms are the fixed point of something that has already happened many times and will probably happen again many times. I don't seek out historicisms - especially not recently - but I can't exist without them. They always find me - in every situation I begin to realize how many times something has been played before, and the connotations that I know, quite accidentally, come strongly to mind...
The miniature is your favourite formal design in your works...
Why the miniature? One of the reasons is the immediate transparency of the form. Definitely. And then there is humility. Not modesty, but humility in the face of the subject and the spirit that may lie hidden far beyond it. Why humility? Because why on earth should I go on for half an hour when after half a minute I have the feeling that I've carried on more than enough. That too is a reason for the miniature. And then: miniatures put the audience into an optimistic mood, because they already know that they haven't fallen into the clutches of some egoist who is going to hurl his emotions at them and open his bowels (at least his artistic bowels), for at least 20 minutes and at taxpayers' expense.
You were a member of a composers' team in the 1960s and now you are again. What do you get out of this very special form of composing?
Again it's a feeling of humility. But I don't want your readers to get the impression that I'm turning into a lay brother or preacher. Not at all. I think there are other and better reasons for humility. And in the team I have to respect not just myself, but the others. I have to take into account what they say, and it's not just that I have to, it's that I want to, and have decided to do so, and am prepared to and regard it as better than being purely on my own in that moment. I'm always surprised by the way similar or related attitudes mount up. I enjoy doing it.
You are one of the most sought-after Czech composers of stage music. What specifically about this kind of work leads you to spend so much time on it?
...I'll let Comenius answer: "There's no song so long that it has no Amen." As long as directors choose me, it brings the gilt, shine, splendour, wealth and hardship of theatrical (or film or television) life. But the time of life will come when - to freely paraphrase Jan Spálený - no uncle's going to pat you on the back, and no girls are going to write you letters. I'm getting close to that time and I will accept it with the calm of a stoic. The philosophy closest to my heart, anyway, is that of hurting no one else. Why do I write for the theatre? Because I think that it's a wonderful form of communication - the creation of rapid and strong illusions about something that few people ever understand in its entirety - and of course the world of the theatre is so beautiful, and life in it is somehow better than elsewhere...
In the ultrapluralistic world of music today is it at all possible to predict its future development? Is there any, and can there be any such development?
I can't size up future developments, but I think future development has already sized us up long ago and is blowing us around like chaff. There is obviously only one absolute judge - time. Nobody can hold out against it. I'm afraid that what we called "development" in earlier epochs has become such a complex process that I don't know how historians of our time can come to terms with it. Evidently they can't. They are waiting...
(This article is reprinted with permission from Czech Music '99, vol. 4, 6-7. Czech Music '99 is issued bimonthly with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation, the Leoš Janáček Foundation and the Czech Music Fund by the Czech Music Information Center, Besední 3, 118 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic.)
The Department of Music of Royal Holloway College (University of London) will join the Centre for the Study of Central Europe, School of Slavonic and East European Studies (University of London) for a conference titled -- A Tale of Three Cities: Janáček's Brno Between Vienna and Prague, Friday, October 22 - Sunday, October 24, 1999. For additional information and conference program, visit <http://www.sun.rhbnc.ac.uk/Music/Conferences/Janacek/>.
The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa will present a conference on Slovak history and culture Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30, 1999 in Cedar Rapids. Other participating institutions include the University of Iowa Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, the Embassy of the Slovak Republic, and the International Studies Program at Kirkwood Community College. A wide range of topics will be addressed. Speakers from the U.S. and abroad will take audiences from film and folk traditions to the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Other attractions include authentic Slovak meals, a folk costume program and Slovak dance. For additional information, visit the Museum's website at <www.ncsml.org/museumnews.htm#Slovak History and Culture Conference>.
Students of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (University of London), with the support of the School's academic staff, are organizing an interdisciplinary conference November 6-7, 1999 titled: BETWEEN THE BLOC AND THE HARD PLACE: Moving towards Europe in Post-Communist States? For additional information, see the Spring 1999 newsletter at <http://uweb.ucsb.edu/~jpearl/csms/csmsnew6.html>.
The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies will hold a convention in St. Louis, Missouri (November 18-21, 1999). For topics to be covered during the various sessions and information on registration, visit <http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~aaass/>.
The Association of Slavic Graduate Students (University of Toronto) in conjunction with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures will host a three-day conference on Emigration and Exile from Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century, to be held in February 2000.
This interdisciplinary conference will focus on formulating, interpreting and debating the concepts of emigration and exile in the light of theorizing the notions of wandering and homelessness, the desire and need for rootedness. The issues of emigration and exile during and after the pressures of Russian and Soviet colonialism will be dealt with extensively over the three days of the conference.
The goal is to facilitate interaction between graduate students and young and established scholars in the social sciences and humanities. A broad range of papers will be heard, including topics from Literature, Linguistics, History, Political Science and Anthropology.
(Czech and Slovak Music Society Discussion List)
The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) will hold its 20th World Congress on August 9-13, 2000 in Washington, D.C. where the Society began in 1958 and where the first World Congress was held in 1962. The event is co-sponsored by the American University, where the meetings and other activities will take place, in cooperation with the Embassies of the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The general theme of the Congress will be Civil Society and Democracy into the New Millennium. Under this heading, a variety of endeavors will be examined, including the vitality of Czech and Slovak communities abroad, the preservation of Czech and Slovak cultural identity and heritage, and the mutual relationships between Czech and Slovak Americans and the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The Society membership includes representatives from a wide variety of disciplines and as such appeals to academics, scientists, artists, educators, students, ethnic community leaders, businessmen, lawyers, clergy, social and cultural workers, journalists, computer experts and others who are interested in the issues to be addressed in the Congress to send suggestions for specific topics and possible speakers. Comments and suggestions should be sent to SVU President Dr. Miloslav Rechcigl <email@example.com>.
As with previous congresses, the academic program will be accompanied by numerous social and cultural activities, next year to include sightseeing of the nation's capital, including the White House and the Capitol Building, and a bus excursion to beautiful Monticello, the residence of President Thomas Jefferson.
The Congress will be hosted by the SVU Washington, D.C. Chapter. To help defray the cost of housing, accommodations have been reserved in the newly renovated American University dormitories.
ISSEI CONFERENCE, BERGEN, NORWAY, AUGUST 14-18, 2000
European Arts in National and Ethnic Contexts
Current scholarship focusing on nationalism, ethnicity, post-colonialism and the construction and re-construction of identities so far has only begun to investigate artistic participation in community-building. The multiple historical and political intersections among the individual and his or her national, ethnic, and cultural contexts, however, manifest themselves quite perceivably in the creative output of artists, writers, musicians, and others. Of course, critical accounts of the individual artists' works have explored possible linkages to a political, social, or cultural agenda. But how are these agendas generated and carried out and by whom? Supposing that artistic production originates from a specific context, it is not always the artist who promotes this context or who interprets and imagines its past or future. Following the breakdown of the communist states in Eastern Europe in conjunction with increased demands by the economically advanced nations to clarify the implications of multi-cultural societies - troubled, even bewildered, at conflicts such as in Yugoslavia - we continue to face repeated inquiries into who we are and what holds us together or tears us apart. The arts may provide us with answers to as of yet unasked questions.
This workshop proposes to place works of art, including architecture, the visual arts, music, literature, crafts, etc., at the center of their European national and/or ethnic contexts to explore the collaborative political, social, or cultural endeavors in which they have engaged or which they have rejected. Encouraged are interdisciplinary contributions that involve political agendas such as right-wing extremism or "racial" purity and the constructs of homogeneity; subnational minorities and hybridity; gender; comparative approaches to groups and societies; theoretical investigations of ideology and art(s).
Questions to be addressed in this workshop include:
* How do the arts express and symbolize national and/or ethnic identity,
cultural affiliation, and territorial propriety?
* What elements contribute to the emergence of (a) national and/or ethnic art(s)?
* Are there conflicts and/or commonalities between the nation and/or ethnic group as political entities and art as a cultural one? If so, what are they?
* What art(s) have certain political and/or ethnic groups identified with and why?
* Ultimately, given globalized economic structures and shifting population demographics at the turn of the millenium, what role(s) will the arts play in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and democratic Europe?
(The Czech and Slovak Music Society Discussion List)
For additional information on the Issei conference, visit <http://www.uib.no/issei2000/>
The University of Liverpool will host an interdisciplinary conference titled The Role of the Romanies: Images and Self-Images of Romanies/"Gypsies" in European Cultures September 15-18, 2000. For additional information, see the Spring 1999 newsletter at <http://uweb.ucsb.edu/~jpearl/csms/csmsnew6.html>.
Note: Information on additional upcoming conferences can be accessed via the Royal Holloway site maintained by Geoffrey Chew <http://www.sun.rhbnc.ac.uk/Music/Conferences/>.
.....Boris Krajný performs at Washington's Czech Embassy
Photo: Paul J. Hoeffler
Czech pianist Boris Krajný gave a recital at the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C. on September 14, 1999. The piano he had to use has many sentimental associations for the Czech emigre community here. It was the studio piano of Lida Brodenová, who studied with Janáček, sang professionally in Moravia, and premiered many Dvořák operas in America. With this piano, she taught many Americans to love not only Czech music but also her native country. After the Velvet Revolution, this piano helped enable the Embassy to rebuild its relationships with the emigre community through concerts of Czech music. Now that these concerts have become more important, this small piano will be replaced by a Petrof concert grand, a much more suitable instrument for introducing Czech piano music and pianists to Washingtonians.
Krajný demonstrated a highly professional technique and musicality. As befitting an artist who has recorded much twentieth-century French piano music, he combines a dignified, reserved style with atmospheric effects of beautiful sound. He has a remarkable ability to understand and convey the structural details which give coherence to twentieth-century music.
Krajný approached Janáček's suite V mlhách (In the Mists) as a work in the international repertory. He stressed its impressionistic aspects and subtle thematic development. He used repetitive rhythmic figurations to provide momentum, as many French and American composers did during the twenties. However, he also used rubato and tone color to evoke the forest at Hukvaldy (which truly becomes a world of fantasy in the mist), revealing an awareness of the Moravian idioms and the subjectivities which are essential to Janáček's music.
Janáček's Sonata has an unusual background. In 1905, when all higher education in Moravia was German-centered and taught in German, Brno students held a demonstration in the hopes of obtaining a Czech university. The government stopped them by force, killing one of the demonstrators. Janáček wrote the Sonata while grieving over this event. After the first Prague performance of the work, he destroyed the original manuscript; it survives only because a copy was made for that performance. Krajný coordinated the work's musical gesture and emotional content very naturally and convincingly, fitting its passion and abruptness into a logical frame.
Krajný performed some of Chopin's finest compositions: the Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat major, op. 51; the Nocturne in c minor, op. 48 no. 1; the Barcarolle in F sharp major, op. 60; and the Ballade in f minor, op. 52. The small piano made it difficult for him to sustain the singing melodic lines and to obtain the delicate shades of tone-color which he obviously intended to play. Thus, he could only provide tantalizing sketches of these works. However, the familiar, soothing mood and noble spirit which have endeared Chopin's music to audiences were securely in place.
(Submitted by Judith Fiehler, Washington, D.C.)
Czech conductor Petr Vronský will appear with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra in Boulder, Colorado in two concerts (January 7 and 8, 2000). Maestro Vronský has conducted, among others, the Berlin Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Munich Radio Symphony, and St. Petersburg Philharmonic. His 1999/2000 engagements include conducting the Monte Carlo Opera, Katowice Radio Symphony, tour in Japan with the Janáček Philharmonic (which will accompany tenors Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras), debut with the Teatro Colon, and will participate in the Prague Spring International Music Festival.
The concert program in Boulder includes Brahms (Hungarian Dances); Hubay (Czardases); Chausson (Poeme); and Dvořák (Symphony no. 7, op. 70). The Boulder Philharmonic is regarded as one of America's best regional orchestras; guest soloists in 1999 include Perlman, Rostropovich, James Galway and Yo-Yo Ma. The soloist for the January 2000 concerts will be violinist Charles Castleman who recently appeared in a critically acclaimed concert with the New York Philharmonic. He is a top-prize winner in the Tchaikovsky and Queen Elizabeth Competitions, and is presently head of the violin department at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester.
(Submitted by Michael Mustillo, Prague Autumn Musical Management, Inc.)
Note: For additional information on Maestro Vronský, visit the Prague Autumn site at <http://www.pragueautumn.cz/english/index.htm>; select performers, conductors, Petr Vronský.
From Minnesota: Conductor, composer and advocate of Czech music Joel Blahník gave a workshop at the University of Minnesota on band conducting July 26 and 27. The first day's sessions focused on "Music from Mid-America"; the second on "Music from Mid-Europe." In August, Mr. Blahník moved his efforts to the Czech Republic where he was worked with the Czech Music Camp for Youth in Horní Jelení. This year's camp served 140 students, a 65% increase from last year's enrollment.
In December 1999, Mr. Blahník will be conducting a workshop at the MidWest International Band/Orchestra Clinic in Chicago on the wind band traditions of Central Europe featuring contemporary composers such as Lukaš, Zamečník and Bělohoubek.
From the Kaprálová Society -
Information about worldwide concerts of Kaprálová's music can be found
IN THE SPOTLIGHT . . .
....The Czech Music
The Czech Music Information Center, supported primarily by the Czech Music Fund, collects documentation on Czech contemporary composers and events, maintains an archive of sheet music, provides intermediate contacts and information for foreigners interested in Czech music, organizes meetings, conferences, talks, and concerts, and publishes a series of periodicals. Publications include:
1. Czech Music -
a bimonthly magazine in English (formerly called Music News from Prague)
2. Music Events in the Czech Republic - a yearbook of festivals, competitions, workshops,and
3. Czech Musical Directory (since 1995 appearing as Muzikontakt)
4. H.I.S. bulletin - a quarterly newsletter in Czech
5. Informational brochures on Czech contemporary composers
The Czech Music Information Center library maintains a collection of scores, CDs, LPs and tapes of music by Czech contemporary composers, as well as books, periodicals, and copies of articles concerning Czech composers. In addition, contact with other libraries, music editors, festival organizers, etc. in the Czech Republic results in a broader base of information about Czech music.
The Czech Music Information Project, developed by the Czech Music Information Center, provides an invaluable on-line source <http://www.sdmusic.cz/czmic/index.html> with links to sites on Czech composers, musicians, performing ensembles including choirs and orchestras, opera houses, publishers, music schools, music societies and foundations, agencies, festivals, competitions, a calendar of music events, new CDs, tickets, and a more general Czech music directory.
(Derived in part from the Czech Music Information Center website at <http://www.sdmusic.cz/czmic/about.htm>
Focus on Composers . . .
KAREL JANOVICKÝ(b. 1930) ......
Mr. Janovický's biography and partial works list may be accessed at the Czech Music Information Project site <http://www.musica.cz/janovicky/index.html>.
PERFORMANCE . . .
Visit the website Musical Events in the Czech Republic 1999 <http://www.musica.cz/events/> compiled by the Czech Music Information Center. This site contains links to a wide variety of categories, including festivals and concerts of classical, folk, sacred, and popular music; courses for performers and composers; competitions; and musicological conferences.
(includes Prague's National, Estates [Stavovské], Kolovrat, and State Opera theaters)
BIBLIOGRAPHY (a work in progress)
Click here to access a cumulative bibliography of recently published works, works in progress, notices of courses and lectures, and sources that scholars have found helpful in their own research on Czech and Slovak music.
The bibliography is divided into several categories including books and scores; articles; lectures; recordings; courses, seminars, and workshops; and works in progress. The list is further subdivided by composer and/or historical period. Recent additions are indicated with an asterisk (*). Although the newsletter is published only three times per year, additions to the bibliography are made at the time information is received.
The bibliography may also be accessed directly at <http://uweb.ucsb.edu/~jpearl/csms/csmsbiblio.html>.
Suggestions for additional entries are welcome. Please send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCLAIMER: Views and opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Czech and Slovak Music Society.
If you have comments or suggestions concerning this or other sites maintained by the Czech and Slovak Music Society, contact Judith Mabary at email@example.com.
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