LEOS JANACEK: The Field That Prospered by Ian Horsbrugh

LEOS JANACEK: The Field That Prospered

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Like Jaroslav Vogel--author of the definitive Janacek biography--Horsbrugh finds relatively little private-life material on the great Czech composer (1854-1928) and devotes the bulk of this book to moderately technical work-by-work discussions of the music. But, while Vogel's 1962 classic (recently re-issued by Norton in a revised edition) manages to infuse the music analysis with a shapely, intense projection of Janacek's personality, Horsbrugh's workmanlike assemblage is flat, ill-organized, and inferior to Vogel in nearly every respect--even the graphic quality of the musical examples. True, Janacek's life story hardly offers the stuff of great drama: son of a Moravian schoolteacher, he studied in Prague, rarely ventured abroad, collected folk songs, composed, taught, was unhappily married; only in his last years did the emotional tempo pick up--with the belated international success of Jenufa and Janacek's inspiring, semi-unrequited passion for a married woman. And Horsbrugh compensates somewhat with background material: on Moravian history, on contrasts between Moravian and Bohemian musical tradition. But the book remains largely a series of stitched-together music appreciations--of the operas, choruses, orchestral works--and in nearly every case Vogel's treatment is more expansive, more evocative, and more accessible. (One surprising exception: the discussion here of Katya Kabanova is fuller than Vogel's oddly terse treatment.) So, though Horsbrugh's competent study might have served a purpose while the Vogel book was out-of-print (and slightly out-of-date), it now seems almost entirely superfluous.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Scribners