From Folk Concepts to Original Style
8. Taras Bulba
Genesis and Sources
Janáček’s enthusiasm for Russia began early in life, during his studies at the Brno Teachers’ Institute. He read Russian literature in the original language avidly, studied Russian folk music, and enjoyed four visits to Russia. He even co-founded the Russian Circle of Brno, an organization devoted to the propagation of the Russian language and culture. In music, he admired several Russian composers including Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Rebikov; and he even hoped at one time to study composition with Anton Rubinstein.1
Moreover, Janáček was a Pan-Slavist: he believed that a kindred spirit—an innate alliance—existed between all Slavic nations.2 In composing his orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba, based on the novella by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Janáček hoped to extol simultaneously the spirit of both the Russian and Czech peoples. The initial section of this chapter will concern the background of this work and Janáček’s intent in composing it.
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