Work: Sonata 1.X.1905 "From the street"
About This Work
This work was the composer's direct reaction to an event he witnessed, a peaceful demonstration calling for a new Czech university that left a worker stabbed to death by a repressive bayonet. Janácek was deeply affected, and wrote his only
piano sonata on an impulse. The work is highly dramatic and original, having been written without any concern to make it properly pianistic. Originally it comprised three programmatic movements, each one in sonata form. After its premiere the composer, in a fit of depression, destroyed the manuscript and threw the pieces into the Vltava River. The first two parts were reconstructed from copies with the help of the performer who premiered it. What has survived are two brief movements, of similar length, in E flat minor. In the first, entitled "Foreboding," con moto, the first subject begins calmly with a wistful motive that is soon reiterated more intensely, with a cascade of octaves in the bass that ends fortissimo in a double trill. The next bar begins pianissimo, introducing the gentler second subject which is partly overlapped by echoes of the first. The brief development works into an anguished climax that leads to the reprise. The movement concludes pianissimo. In the second, "Death," Adagio, the exposition is monothematic, a slow and melancholic contemplation based on a simple four-note motive of pensive character. The development gathers momentum, with spasmodic contributions of the left hand. The development works the motive into a frenzy of repeated chords leading to the reprise. The piece closes very softly. This is one of the most concentrated and emotionally charged piano works of the century.
-- Hector Bellman
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