Janácek beyond the Borders

December 2009
57 line illustrations
190 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580463096
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS050000, MUS028000

Janácek beyond the Borders

Derek Katz

This contextual study of Janácek's operas reveals the composer's creative responses to a wide range of Czech and non-Czech traditions.
Leos Janácek is increasingly recognized as one of the major operatic masters of the early twentieth century. In Janácek beyond the Borders, Derek Katz presents an interpretive and critical study of Janácek's major operas that questions prevailing views of the composer's relationship to the Czech language and to Slavic culture and demonstrates that the operas are deeply indebted to various existing operatic traditions outside of the Czech-speaking realm. Katz discusses the implications for Janácek's operas of the composer's notorious "speech-melody" theories and of his fascination with Russia. He also points out revealing and persuasive parallels to certain major operas in non-Czech traditions -- French, Italian, and German -- that deserve notice and that demonstrate how the composer developed a practical operatic aesthetic through emulation and creative adaptation. In this fresh and novel approach, Katz goes beyond the normal evidentiary record (letters, sketches, and published writings) and allows Janácek's works to speak for themselves.

Derek Katz is Associate Professor of Music History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has written about Czech music for American and European academic journals and for the New York Times.

An excellent short study of the operas in the light of Janá?ek's developing musical style and political sensibilities. . . . Katz nicely explains musical concepts as they arise. . . . The University of Rochester Press has added yet another interesting title to its ongoing rich and varied series on music.--BERKSHIRE REVIEW FOR THE ARTS [Michael Pisani] click here to read the entire review.

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Table of Contents

Finding a Context
Beyond the Czech Language: Janácek and the Speech Melody Myth, Once Again
Beyond the Czech Lands: To the East
Beyond National Opera
Beyond Western European Opera
Beyond the Operatic Stage
Harmony and Mortality in The Makropulos Case


An engaging and progressive work of musicology and music theory that is as thoughtful as it is thought-provoking. . . [This] meticulously researched monograph reads cleanly and swiftly. . . Katz's ability to trace Janacek's personal sense of being within the changing political climate of the Czech lands is uncanny. MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES [John K. Novak]

Illuminating. . . Written in a broadly allusive but pleasingly unpretentious style. . . It's salutary to see a musicologist taking issue with the oft-revered pronouncements of Theodor Adorno, who managed to get Janácek conceptually wrong on every count. OPERA NEWS

Absolutely fascinating. On each subject treated in one chapter after another, Derek Katz reveals remarkable creativity. . . The topic is ambitious, the author brilliant, the reading captivating. FORUM OPERA [Nicolas Derny]

Derek Katz's fine book is must reading for anyone with a serious interest in the operas of Janácek and his place in the development of European operatic and musical traditions. Katz trenchantly deconstructs and reassesses all the oft-repeated generalizations about Janácek's obsession with speech melodies and his role as an "old avant-gardist," folkorist, or iconoclastic modernist. The result is a more complex understanding of Janácek's compositions as products of a dynamic mix of musical, dramatic, and textual imperatives created with a keen awareness of Czech and international operatic and compositional traditions. --Gary B. Cohen, Professor of History, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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