Another part of the series of articles by Leoš Janáček about Brno singer associations is dedicated to the Slavonic singer association of Brno technicians “Zora”.
We often find various associations behaving like singer unions. What is the position of these unions in artistic society? Many say that if the union is not based on an artistic background, it is not good to take into consideration just the artistic measure. However, my opinion is the following: if the singer union is founded, the activity of the union is set; the incentive for founding is also the purpose; entertainment – singing. However, this can be based only on the simple interest in connection between musical and poetic beauty. With that said, if the union should fulfil its role, it must be in the field of art foremost. I will add musical; because otherwise it should express the condition, based on which the singer union could entertain the association community by any old rubbish. For this, I conclude, the association should thank its union appropriately. The difference between singer union and singer association is the generality; the latter is required, if it wants to survive, to have strength, but the former is not a subject to this notion and it survives whether successful or unsuccessful. If the latter wants to remain, it should have classicality as an ideal and it should strive for it; the former has this responsibility, if it has material, strength. On the contrary: any union which does not have anything as a source of creativity strives for perfection and artistic appeal, however. Previously, we spoke about Vesna, now let’s turn to a singers’ association called Zora when performing actively. They are singing the song Skřivánek (The Lark), a humorous choral by Dr. Javůrek: a gentle composition, which needs to be gently performed. Let’s be honest with ourselves: all the smoothness, ease at use, gentleness of expression, singing adapted to words – that was all missing.
And the laughter! It was like the evil rejoicing of wicked spirits, not like the naïve laughter of a lover. The main cause was the disproportionate cast of voices. They wanted to see a devil, a joke with the words of J.S. and music by Karel Hák. We want every contemporary composer to choose real poetic beauty when using words for their compositions, which can be ludicrous, but it should never become a patchwork of gross and uncouth jokes and expressions. The author of the words must have thought about strange company when composing the words – definitely not the one which gathered, however small it was, on the Saturday. That is the main reason why the composition did not make the impression people expected.
And the music? We admit that the composer was very persistent and diligent and proved that he was artful in using musical forms. However, we regret all the work and effort; as it did not match the words: the style of Offenbach would probably have better effect. The second main fault was the immense fragmentation of the composition; each part had a different motif, different style, different key, different way of timing – a basic theme, which would unite and join the composition, was absolutely missing.
Only the story here contributed to unity, without the plot there would be an impression similar to a multi-coloured Chinese picture. – I find it easy to prove it, however, it does not belong here. I am willing to talk about it personally, though. The melodies, and also the accompaniment remind us often of similar scenes from other compositions; I do not hold this against the composer. It is a truly natural phenomenon for which the author cannot be blamed; nonetheless, I believe that it should be mentioned. I do not want to talk about the impression as it is subjective and personal.
Dvě písně (Two Songs) composed František Budík using Hálek’s lyrics. I keep reminding myself that if we compose a song and we had already chosen the lyrics, we show by that choice that the poetic beauty revealed to us in the words is the main element. The music should then, if possible when two beauties are put together, be subordinate to the other element. In the first song the composer tried to comply with it, even though it was a bit awkward, the cause of awkwardness probably was the strange choice of the quintet style, too rich for such light flowing lyrics appearing in the song. The second song is absolutely wrong from the point of view of harmony between the two elements. Mere improvisation in various but not peculiar or original harmony, which flow calmly and which are homophonic. When listening to these songs we perceive two lines of ideas and images which do not correspond with each other with respect to aesthetics, i.e. to get the liking from the harmony, the images absolutely do not correspond; that is why the lyrics and the music fail, which makes an unpleasant impression. It is absolutely justifiable to say that the music is not suitable for the poems used. We shall observe the music itself; then we claim that the composition is good with respect to the melody and harmony, as well as the distribution, conclusion and methods are concerned. We, however, miss variety, which is the sticking point of these compositions. Monotony prevails: in the melody because the melody is represented by a tenor only, although in the case of other voices it is a mere result of harmonic composition; in harmony because one cannot speak about harmonic richness and variety. Novelty is important: what we hear every day and in every composition becomes ordinary and uninteresting; colourful monotony occurred due to the incessant lead of all four or five voices. Variety is missing in both compositions; it is not a fanciful idea which is proven by the impression: is there anyone who was fascinated, impressed or enthusiastic? There is yet another thing I would like to say about the distribution and conclusion of both compositions. The first one ends and we have no idea why and what for. A balanced and satisfactory music ending does not necessarily coincide with the end of the poem: it is missing in both compositions. The conclusion, i.e. the whole part of the composition moves in one basic style (key) and in this way the composition is balanced, is not performed flawlessly in either song; that is why one cannot be satisfied with the conclusion. Finally, there is one piece of advice – the composer should revise both poems and work them differently: surely he will then succeed.
Zkoření Jericha by Mazánek was sung well, which is proof of diligent work and endeavour of the choir master Budík. Now, the question remains: why so much words about a mere dance party? In order to explain my point of view, this will no longer be done to make further analysis. Zora is apparently gaining strength, which brings about a satisfactory impression. However, it should be demanded that the singer association is aware of the fact that pure art is the most important and that their duty is to do their best to contribute to artistic activities in Brno.