Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Leos Janacek

Dr. Bob Prescribes Leoš Janáček, String Quartets

I am well aware that today is July 4 and that, perhaps, the patriotic thing for me to do today would be to celebrate the national anthem of the United States – The Star-Spangled Banner – and, perhaps, a famous arrangement of that very anthem. Sadly, no-can-do, because it has already-been-done: just last year, in Music History Monday for July 4, 2022, and Dr. Bob Prescribes for July 5, 2022. Those posts – respectively entitled “As American as tarte aux pommes! Celebrating the Fourth with some Real American Music! or Tampering with National Property” and “Stravinsky in America” – together recount the story of The Star-Spangled Banner as well as Igor Stravinsky’s famous and most controversial arrangement of the anthem, made in 1944 and subsequently banned in Boston! I would humbly direct your attention to these two posts for appropriately “spangled” reading. As for today, we pick up where we left off in yesterday’s Music History Monday, with the Czech composer Leoš Janáček and his two superb string quartets: No. 1, subtitled “The Kreutzer Sonata” and No. 2, subtitled “Intimate Letters.” Leoš Janáček(1854-1928) Our impressions of Leoš Janáček tend to be conditioned by photographs taken of him later in life. […]

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Music History Monday: Leoš Janáček: Composer, Patriot and Patriot Composer!

Today we mark the 163rd anniversary of the birth – on July 3, 1854 – of the Czech (Moravian) composer Leoš Janáček. First things first, as Janáček’s name is notoriously mispronounced by non-Czechs. His first name – Leoš – is easy enough: “Lay-osh.” But his surname is a challenge for those of us who have trouble moving our vowels. We will learn to pronounce it in two steps. Step one: place an accent on the middle syllable: “Ya–NA-check”. Step two: accent the first syllable as well – “YA-NA-check” – and say it quickly: “YA-NA-check”. Excellent. Dude /d(j)uːd/ was born in the village of Hukvaldy in the Moravia-Silesia (north eastern) region of today’s Czech Republic. At the time of his birth, Moravia was part of the Austrian Empire and Janáček’s hometown was known by its German name of “Hochwald”. Young Janáček had a first-rate singing voice. At 11 he received a scholarship to attend the Queen’s Monastery and School in the city of Brno (pronounced Bur-NO), the largest city in Moravia. The Queen’s Monastery and School was a first-rate music conservatory. Janáček studied singing, organ, and piano and he did well. After graduating at the age of 15, he attended the Royal […]

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