[#235] January 22, 2024
1926 | Chamber Winds | Grade 6 | 15' - 20'
Capriccio, by Czech composer Leoš Janáček is our Composition of the Week.
The Capriccio for Piano Left-Hand and Chamber Ensemble, sometimes referred as “Vzdor”, Defiance in English, by Janáček himself, was written in the autumn of 1926. The work is remarkable not just in the context of Janáček's output, but it also occupies an exceptional position in the literature written for piano played only by the left hand.
Capriccio was apparently inspired by the request of the pianist Otakar Hollmann, who had lost the use of his right-hand during World War I.
In May 1927 he sent the score to the pianist, and in the summer of the same year Hollmann started to study the new composition.
The first private hearing of the work took place on February 6, 1928, at Janáček's apartment in Brno, to the composer's satisfaction.
The preparations for the premiere were led by the conductor Jaroslav Řídký, who performed the work on March 2, 1928, in the Smetana Hall of the Municipal Cultural Center in Prague, Czech Republic, with seven members of the Czech Philharmonic.
Capriccio was the last premiere of one of his works that he was able to witness before his death.
The music is scored for piano, flute, two trumpets, three trombones and tenor tuba and has a duration of 21 minutes.
Its first edition was prepared by Jarmil Burghauser in 1953, and it is the score that is regularly played today.
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was born in Hukvlady in Moravia (Czech Republic) in 1854. Janáček was inspired by Czech, Slavic and Moravian folk music. It was from these roots that he created his original musical style including his “speech” – derived melodic lines, and complex modal language. His principal vocation was that of teaching, having founded music schools and conservatories in his homeland, particularly in Brno. A patriot, his early works were not widely accepted; however, his most fruitful years were from the age of seventy onward.
Janáček is now regarded as a Czech composer to be ranked with Smetana and Dvorak, as well as one of the most substantial and original opera composers of the 20th century. His prose, like his music, is in abrupt, short phrases, often too compressed and overloaded to reveal its meaning immediately, but with unmistakeable energy and force.
His most celebrated musical compositions include the symphonic poem Sinfonietta, the Glagolitic Mass, Taras Bulba and Lachian Dances, as well as his string quartets and operas.
Other works for winds by Janáček include:
Mládí – Die Judend (1924), for chamber winds.
Sinfonietta – 1. Mov. (1926) for brass and timpani