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The Symphonic Works of Leoš Janáček

From Folk Concepts to Original Style


John K. Novak

This book investigates the spectrum of meaning inherent in six orchestral works by Leoš Janáček. It codifies his compositional style, first through a thorough examination of its origins in folk music and speech-melody, then in discussions of the features of its melody and motivic techniques. His harmonic style and multiple organizations of tonality are examined in rich detail. The analysis section consists of the examination of each musical work’s musical elements, its affective and programmatic associations, as well as four narrative codes through which the listener discovers further meaning in the work: the hermeneutic code (which governs enigmas), the semic code of musical motives, the proairetic (formal) code, and the referential code (which draws on analogous passages from other pieces of music).
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9. The Ballad of Blaník – Balada Blanícká


Chapter 9

The Ballad of Blaník – Balada Blanícká

A Beloved National Myth

The late 1910s marked a turning point for Janáček’s life and art. With the successful belated Prague premiere of Jenůfa on May 26th, 1916, Janáček had finally achieved national recognition as a gifted composer. On the 28th of October 1918, near the end of World War I, Czechs and Slovaks freed themselves from Austrian domination, and named their new union the Czechoslovak Republic. Like most other Czechs, Janáček had hoped all his life to be free from Austria. All that Janáček had fought for, both through his music and for his music was coming true. In September of 1919, the new republic agreed to change the Brno Organ School he directed into the new Brno Conservatory.

The first composition that Janáček began in the milieu of the new Republic was The Ballad of Blaník. The legend of the Mount Blaník in Bohemia is among the most popular fables of the Czech Lands. Although a myth, it is based on an actual historical army, the Hussite army of Jan Žižka (1358–1424), which fought against the Imperial Armies that were sent out to purge the empire of Hussite Protestantism. After several victories, the Hussite army was eventually defeated. In the legend, the knights of the army today sleep within the mountain Blaník, which is located in central Bohemia. If...

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