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Recording of the Janáček piano sonata: 1. X 1905 "From the Street." 

Janáček piano sonata: 1. X 1905 "From the Street." - 1. Foreboding

Janáček piano sonata: 1. X 1905 "From the Street." - 2. Death

A short history of the piece: This piano sonata has an unusually detailed history and is a wonderful example of music acting as a political and social criticism of it's time. Janáček intended the composition to be a tribute to a worker named František Pavlík (1885–1905), who on 1 October 1905 was bayoneted during demonstrations in support for a Czech university in Brno. He started to compose it immediately after the incident occurred and finished its composition in January 1906. The première took place on 27 January 1906 in Brno, with Ludmila Tučková at the piano. Janáček also wrote a third movement, a funeral march, which he cut out and burned shortly before the first public performance of the piece in 1906. He was not satisfied with the rest of the composition either and later tossed the manuscript of the two remaining movements into the river Vltava. He later commented with regret about his impulsive action: "And it floated along on the water that day, like white swans". The composition remained lost until 1924 (the year of Janáček’s seventieth birthday), when Tučková announced that she owned a copy. The renewed premiere took place on 23 November 1924 in Prague, under the title 1. X. 1905. Janáček later accompanied the work with the following inscription:


"The white marble of the steps of the Besední dům in Brno. The ordinary labourer František Pavlík falls, stained with blood. He came merely to champion higher learning and has been slain by cruel murderers."

My thoughts on the sonata: Underlying the obvious melancholy of the piece is a rhythmic complexity which lends a feeling of nervous intensity and unease to the work. This is most noticeable in the second movement, "Death", which employs the rhythmic devise of leaving the first beat of each bar empty. It always occured to me that this created a sense of "lurching" into sadness as when we try to hold back emotions or tears and our stomach lurches forward as they try to escape. This device makes the eventual release of the emotions in the stormy middle section all the more poetic. 

Recording of the Scarlatti sonata K380 in E major.

Recording of the Schumann Humoreske op.20

My thoughts on the Humoreske:

One of Schumann's greatest masterpieces written for the piano and one of my favourite pieces in the piano repertoire! No description can truly do this work justice but that which comes closest is perhaps from Schumann himself in a letter to Clara dated 11 March 1839:


"I have been working at the piano all week, composing, writing, laughing and crying all at once. You will find this state of affairs nicely evoked in my opus 20, the big Humoreske, which is about to be engraved."


This piece lies very close to my heart and I grew up loving it throughout my childhood. Whenever I think of Schumann's music I think of a nervous energy giving every bar a kinetic, almost electric voltage. Even such moments of repose and lyricism, as in 'Einfach und Zart', are filled with a beautiful tension, an almost unwillingness to let the music move on. I feel the way in which Schumann teases the emotions out of you is unique to him.- at once a frenetic excitement, as in 'Sehr rasch und leicht' and then a moment later something more contemplative, only to be thrown back into yet again something different. The almost schizophrenic movement between different states of being, which then in turn influence one another, continually morphing into something you don't quite expect, goes toward creating this masterpiece, rooted so firmly in german romanticism. It serves as a window into the mind of a notoriously 'tortured' composer and allows us to be transported for a moment into his thoughts and feelings, to experience that most idealised state of german romanticism: "der Rausch der Verrücktheit" - the intoxication of insanity. 

1. Einfach

2. Sehr rasch und leich: 1:54

3. Hastig:  5:30

4. Einfach und zart: 10.12

5. Innig: 15:11

6.Sehr lebhaft: 18:01

7. Mit einigem Pomp: 20.03

8.Zum Beschluss: 21:23

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