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V mlhách 'In the mists'

composer

 
The last of Janáček’s major piano works, the four-movement cycle In the mists, dates from a time when the composer was at a low ebb, psychologically because of his unsuccessful attempts to have his operas performed, and physically due to rheumatism and other ailments. The immediate catalyst for the cycle may well have been a performance in January 1928 at the Brno Organ School of Debussy’s ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ (first published in 1905); certainly, In the mists bears faint traces of contact with Debussy’s piano style. Janáček was also buoyed by a favourable critical response to the publication in December 1911 of Book 1 of On the overgrown path. The first version of In the mists (initially entitled Mhy—'Mists') was completed by 21 April 1912, and it was revised probably in early 1913. The premiere and publication of the first edition was in late 1913. Ten years later a new edition was commissioned in honour of Janáček’s seventieth birthday. The pianist and composer Václav Štěpán, who had given what seems to have been the first Prague performance of the work in December 1922, was entrusted with revising the score. Unfortunately, he exceeded his brief of correcting errors, adding heavy-handed dynamic markings and rewriting the finale’s climax with some virtuoso figuration that is entirely out of keeping with the understated character of the work. (The original 1913 versions of all the relevant passages are performed here.)

All four movements of In the mists involve the alternation and incremental modification of two contrasting groups of material, although the overlying structure of each movement is different from that of the others and none conforms to an established pattern. The work is unquestionably Janáček’s masterpiece in terms of its achievement of an astonishing expressive power through maximum economy of materials. As Thomas Adès puts it, ‘The greatness of In the mists lies in its very claustrophobia, and austerity of means affecting every aspect of the music. The solo piano becomes a narrow space with four solid walls’.

from notes by Paul Wingfield © 2020

Recordings

Janáček: Solo piano
Studio Master: SIGCD600Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Movement 1: Andante
Track 17 on SIGCD600 [3'37] Download only
Movement 2: Molto adagio
Track 18 on SIGCD600 [4'18] Download only
Movement 3: Andantino
Track 19 on SIGCD600 [2'02] Download only
Movement 4: Presto
Track 20 on SIGCD600 [4'17] Download only

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