Donald Macleod on Janacek's 70th birthday year, when he was headed for emotional ruin.
Forget pipe and slippers. In 1924, Leos Janacek (1854-1928) careened into his eighth and final decade with an almost rock star-like abandon: sleepwalking through his own personal erotic fantasy as his personal life crashed catastrophically around him. His was in love: infatuated to the point of madness with a woman nearly four decades younger, the very much married Mrs Kamila Stösslová.
Meanwhile, as his long-suffering wife endured almost unbearable torrents of gossip, insults and casual misogyny (can you believe I wrote this piece with such a stupid wife!", he quipped to a group of admirers one evening), the composer almost blithely tossed off a series of career-defining masterpieces - all written at breathtaking, almost breakneck speed.
This week, Donald Macleod explores the brilliant, tempestuous last five years of classical music's 'anti-prodigy' - the seventysomething whose obsessive love inspired him to create some of the finest works of the 20th century. We'll hear a near-comprehensive list of Janacek's final works: from the astonishing Sinfonietta and Glagolitic Mass, written just months apart, to extended excerpts from Janacek's last great trio of operas: "The Cunning Little Vixen", "The Makropoulos Affair" and "From The House Of The Dead".
We'll also hear both of Janacek's String Quartets - each intimately related to his illicit relationship with Kamila - as well as concerti for violin and piano, and surely one of the strangest pieces in all classical music: his "Capriccio" for left hand piano, trumpets, trombones, tuba and flute.
To begin the series, Donald Macleod catches up with Janacek in his 70th birthday year - a period when the composer was well on the way to emotional ruin.
March Of The Blue Boys, for piccolo and piano (1924)
Roberto Fabbriciani (piccolo), Massimiliano Damerini (piano)
ARTS MUSIC 47557-2 - Track 1
String Quartet no.1 "The Kreutzer Sonata" (1923-4)
CALLIOPE CAL 9333 - Tracks 5-8
Mladi ("Youth") (excerpt) (1924)
Moderato - 5'05''
Members of the London Sinfonietta / David Atherton
DECCA 4303752 - Disc 2, Tracks 6-10
The Cunning Little Vixen (Act I excerpt)(1921-23, fp 1924)'
"Going To Be A Storm Soon"
"Come On, Old Lady, And Let's Get The Show Started"
"Mummy! Mummy! What Is That?"
"I'm Just The Same Too"
"Look What We've Got Down 'ere"
Interlude (beginning) - (conclusion)
"You Should Take A Lesson From Me!"
Thomas Allen (forester, baritone)
Stephen Wallder (cricket)
Shelley Nash (caterpillar)
Robert Tear (mosquito)
Piers Laurence (frog)
Rebecca Bainbridge (Vixen cub)
Lillian Watson (Vixen, soprano)
Gillian Knight (forester's wife, contralto)
Karen Shelby (dog)
Mary King (rooster)
Glenys Groves (chief hen)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / Sir Simon Rattle
CHANDOS CHAN31301 - Disc 1, Tracks 1-13."