Work: The Diary of One Who Disappeared
About This Work
The dramatic song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared by Moravian-Czech composer Leos Janácek, based on an anonymous series of poems published in a Czech newspaper, was written over the course of nearly two years. The initial inspiration
for the cycle was Janácek having met and fallen passionately in love with Kamila Stosslova in late spring 1917. However, Janácek was, at the time, deeply immersed in the completion of his rhapsody for orchestra Taras Bulba and he set The Diary aside until this was finished in March 1918. He then took up The Diary again and completed it in June 1919 and the work was then premiered in Janácek's hometown of Brno in 1921.
Scored for tenor, mezzo-soprano, three female voices, and piano, The Diary is much more than simply a song cycle: It is a dramatic song cycle that not only tells a story, it tells a story that is all but staged. Its 22 pieces divided into three parts, The Dairy is the tale of a peasant boy who meets and falls passionately in love with a gypsy girl. The first eight songs are sung to the peasant boy; the central four songs plus piano interlude depict his seduction with the entrance on stage of the mezzo-soprano and the three female voices; and in the last nine songs, the peasant boy describes his reaction to the seduction and his taking of his own life for the life of a gypsy.
The music of The Dairy is Janácek at his most erotic. As always with Janácek, the melodies are closely modeled on the cadences of the Czech language and the voices' tessitura is at the highest end of the singers' range. In the case of The Diary, this gives the melodies the ache and arch of sexual longing. The height of the work's vocal sexuality comes in its central section, when the mezzo-soprano and three female voices come to seduce the boy. The piano interlude after the seduction clearly depicts the lovemaking of the peasant boy and the gypsy girl in throbbing rhythms and lushly pointed chromatic harmonies.
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