At a Glance
Tonight's concert presents three extraordinary musical poets. Although Janáček, Schumann, and Debussy were responding to very different landscapes, times, and emotions, they each provided vivid points of access to their respective sound worlds. In four movements from Janáček's On the Overgrown Path, Book I, we catch a nocturnal glimpse of the composer's native Moravia. Composed during a particularly difficult period in Janáček's career, these pieces nonetheless show great poetic self-determination through their totally original idiom.
If Janáček's demons were eventually exorcised by the composer's establishment within contemporary Czech culture, Schumann's were more deep-seated. Railing against the prevailing philistinism of his time, he retreated into an imaginative world that was populated with contrasting characters. This artistic engine room generated a number of vivid piano works during the 1830s, such as his Davidsbündlertänze, but it was also sadly indicative of an increasingly overwrought mind.
French composer Claude Debussy has long been thought of as an impressionist, a sort of musical equivalent to his compatriots Manet and Monet. Yet Debussy often belittled the term impressionism; though his various preludes have evocative titles, these were hidden at the end of each piece so as not to produce mere picture postcards. Indeed, with their ingenious use of harmony, texture, dynamics, and rhythm, the preludes are so much more than decorative splashes on a musical canvas.