Monday, April 23, 2012: Music Before Dark
Antonin Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana may be two of the most famous Czech composers, but the Herold Quartet (Heroldovo Kvarteto) wants to introduce you to two other Czech composers, at an early evening concert Wed (Apr 25) at 5:30 pm at The Rudolfinum.
You probably know the name, if not all the music, of one composer; and you might not know anything at all about the other.
The first composer is Leoš Janáček; the Herold Quartet will perform his String Quartet No. 2, Intimate Letters. You may know that Janáček was born in 1854 in Moravia, collected and studied Moravian and Slovak folk music, that many of his compositions contain these elements, and that his operas use the rhythms and inflections of Czech speech.
But you may not know about the legend surrounding his string quartet. Janáček wrote the piece in his early 60s, inspired by his obsession over a woman aged 25. But their relationship apparently was restricted only to notes – they exchanged more than 700 letters, and Janáček himself nicknamed his string composition “Intimate Letters.” It premiered a month after his death in 1928.
In fact, Janáček didn’t gain recognition as a composer until late in his life — he didn’t achieve success until 1916, when his opera Jenůfa was finally performed in Prague.
Luboš Sluka is sometimes said to resemble Janáček in terms of his musical inventiveness, and the Herold Quartet will also present his String Quartet, No. 4. Mr Sluka, born in 1928, didn’t study music formally until he entered the Prague Conservatory at age 22. There, he studied conducting, percussion, and composition.
Mr Sluka co-founded and was the general editor of Panton, the publishing house of the Czech Music Fund, where he promoted the works of other Czech composers. Only since 1977 has he devoted himself to his own compositions; in addition to orchestral and chamber music, he has also composed music for Czech television and films, and several pieces for children.
And finally, you might like to know that the Herold Quartet is named after another great Czech musician and composer, Jiří Herold (1875 – 1934). The concert is part of the Early Evening concerts of the Czech Chamber Music Society (Český Spolek pro Komorní Hudbu). Since it starts at 5:30 pm, you’ll can enjoy the inspiring music, and still have the evening to write some intimate letters – if not a string quartet – of your own. — oo
– Anna Walsh with Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Herold Quartet website