Thursday, December 8, 2016

Add some Janáček to you life!

There is just not enough Janáček in our lives. On the turntable today is Leoš Janáček's Slavonic Mass.
 
Janáček (1854-1928) was Czechoslovakian. He was the son of a Moravian schoolmaster and organist. He founded and was the first director of the Brno Organ School. It took him 30 years to really get rolling with his composition, but eventually he developed a unique style, incorporation Moravian folksong, and pitch inflections and rhythms of his native language (and bird songs, dog growls, wild animal cries, rustling leaves...). He was best known for his operas and organ music. Because of my background, I am more familiar with his string music so I thought this would be a nice change of pace.

The Slavonic Mass involves choir, soloists, orchestra, and organ. His style is deeply unique and "hard to explain." While his harmonies are quite usual his rhythms and melodies are short, angular, and striking. The use of speech and language pitches and rhythms makes his music immediately strange but familiar.

Janáček exuded Nationalism and, like Beethoven, his mass was never meant for the church.  The notes from the vinyl jacket read: "The Slavonic Mass, for all its flaming ardor, was not intended to be a religious work, but a national one. 'I wanted to portray the faith on the certainty of the nation, not on a religious basis but on a basis of moral strength which takes God for witness'...The Mass is based upon the text of the ancient Glagolitic rite, brought to Moravia in the ninth century by the Saints Cyril and Methodius, and extinct in the churches of that country since the fifteenth century."

Sources
Griffiths, Paul and Jan Smaczny "Janáček, Leoš." The Oxford Companion to Music. Ed. Alison LathamOxford Music OnlineOxford University PressWeb8 Dec. 2016.<http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t114/e3526>.

Janáček, Leoš, Helga Pilarczyk, Janis Martin, Nicolai Gedda, George Gaynes, and Leonard Bernstein. Slavonic Mass: (mša Glagolskaja). Columbia, 1965. Sound recording.

John Tyrrell"Janáček, Leoš." Grove Music OnlineOxford Music OnlineOxford University PressWeb8 Dec. 2016. <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/14122>.

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Since earning her Ph.D. in music theory and history from the University of Connecticut in 2014, Dr. Sekula has been a full-time faculty member with the department of music at USAO where she teaches the music theory curriculum and conducts the concert band. Sekula also serves as the coordinator for the department of music. She has previously earned Bachelor’s degrees in music education and flute performance from Lebanon Valley College and a Master’s of Music in flute performance from George Mason University. Sekula has studied flute with Barbara Divine, Dr. Theresa Bowers, Judith Lapple, and Dr. Barbara Hopkins.