July 3 birthday of Leos Janáček: Taras Bulba–Rhapsody for Orchestra (1918)

Leoš Janáček (1854 – 1928) is the second most famous Czech composer after Dvorak. I’m a bigger fan of his “Sinfonetta,” but Taras Bulba showcases his syncretism of classical, folk and 20th century musical currents.

Leos Janacek: Sinfonietta

Brass music rarely does it for me. Janacek’s “Sinfonietta,” however, full of brass and timpani crashes, really stirs me. Composed for a gymnastic festival in 1926, when the composer was 72, it is filled with themes, moods, and colors that evoke the passion and pride of the Czech people. Some parts are bombastic, others have passages filled with shimmering violins that fill the piece with light. It also contains a number of peasant-inspired passages, which shows in a way that Janacek was a forerunner of Bartok, who studied and expanded Western music with the introduction of complicated “primitivistic” harmonies and rhythms.

Janacek experienced a second spate of creativity toward the end of his life, from which “Sinfonietta” comes. Supposedly that phase was inspired by a married woman, 38 years his younger with whom he formed a passionate, but platonic, relationship. A new lease on life. We don’t always know it, but often receive the opportunity to have new leases on life. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find people who can point out when it’s necessary to abandoned old forms of thought or behaviors in favor of new and fertile ones.

Buy MP3 or CD of Sinfonietta on Amazon

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