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Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940) distinguished herself as an outstanding composer of the twentieth century. Her teachers in composition included her father Vaclav Kapral, Vilem Petrzelka, Vitezslav Novak, Bohuslav Martinu, and Nadia Boulanger; and in conducting Zdenek Chalabala, Vaclav Talich, and Charles Munch. In 1937 she conducted her Vojenska symfonieta (Military Sinfonietta) in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic, and in London with the BBC Orchestra at the 1938 ISCM Festival. Representing Czechoslovakia at the festival, Kapralova's music was shared with that of Bela Bartok, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith, Olivier Messiaen, Anton Webern, and others. Kapralova was the youngest of all (Bartok was the oldest), and her work was chosen to open the festival. At a time when the world questioned the abilities of women composers and conductors, and especially found it difficult to take women songwriters seriously, Kapralova was excelling in genre after genre, bequeathing a sizeable amount of unique, passionate, and materful compositions. Tragically, her life was cut short at the age of twenty five, apparently by tuberculosis miliaris, in 1940. Her work received critical acclaim in her lifetime, and renewed acclamations have arisen with their "rediscovery" after years of neglect following the upheavals of World War II and a restrictive communist regime. This rediscovery has caused interest in Kapralova's works to mushroom in recent years, thanks largely to the efforts of the Kapralova Society, which has supported publications and recordings of these phenomenal compositions. Throughout the world, performers are embracing these works, and audiences continue to be enthralled. Those interested in learning more are urged to visit the Kapralova Society's award-winning website.
This publication brings a very welcome addition to the recital repertoire for violin and piano. Two of the compositions are published here for the first time; and by republishing Burleska, we are able to correct some errors found in the long-out-of-print edition, as well as to pair it with its partner Legenda, as originally intended by the composer. In our edition, we have chosen to publish an "urtext" score in the full piano/violin part, along with a "practical" score in the separate violin parts. Bowings and fingerings not indicated by Kapralova are suggested by violinist Stephen Shipps, who along with pianist Timothy Cheek performed the American premiere of these works in 2002.
The two works of opus 3 - Legenda and Burleska - were written in the spring of 1932, when Kapralova was seventeen years old and a student at the Brno Conservatory. These two contrasting works highlight the main features of Kapralova's style - solid craftsmanship marked by motivic development, along with passionate romanticism in the first piece, and wit and charm in the second.
The first work was the composer's first piece for violin and piano, and she initially entitled it Nalada (Mood), later changing it to Legenda (Legend). Burleska (Burlesque) is dedicated to Dr. Magda Kuhnova, a friend of Kapralova's family. The works were premiered together in Brno by two of Kapralova's classmates, violinist Jan Lorenc and pianist Frantisek Jilek, on May 9, 1933, in a concert featuring student compositions. (Jilek went on to become a prominent conductor specializing in Janacek's works, and was based mainly in Brno.) Kapralova's pieces received very favorable reviews in Narodni noviny, Ceske slovo, and most notably important musicologists and critics in Brno, acclaimed: V. Kapralova stirred lively interest with very flowin, sonorous, and effective compositions for violin with piano, from which particularly Burleska would no doubt gladly establish itself as an additional number on any solo concert program.
Indeed, Burleska was published shortly afterward in 1933 by the important Brno publisher Oldrich Pazdirek. This marked Kapralova's second publication, after Pazdirek's printing of her piano piece Na dalekou cestu (Before the Long Journey) in 1925. As with all of Kapralova's works, be they vocal or instrumental, the writing is largely idiomatic. For her first foray into violin writing, this is all the more remarkable coming from a teenager whose instrument was the piano. Legenda and Burleska are very effective performed together, and total 10-11 minutes in length. Separately, Legenda is 6-7 minutes, and Burleska is just over 4 minutes.
Elegie (Elegy) is a masterpiece from Kapralova's days in Paris, and was written in 1939, almost a year and a half before the composer's death. Between 3-4 minutes in length, it was premiered on February 28, 1939 in Paris at the Cercle international de jeunesse, with violinist Jan Sedivka and the composer at the piano. It is a memorial to Karel Capek, one of the most famous Czech writers of the twentieth century. Originally titled In Memoriam, the work was renamed Elegie by Sedivka. He wanted to be able to perform the piece in the future outside the context of Capek's recent death, and Kapralova approved of the new title. Karel Capek was a great spokesman for human rights, and for his country. His death on Christmas Day, 1938, at only forty-nine during the impending invasion of Czechoslovakia by Hitler, was a heavy blow to many, including Kapralova. Only a week after completing Elegie she composed the melodrama Karlu Capkovi (To Karl Capek) for narrator, violin, and piano, to a poem by Vitezslav Nezval. Besides Elegie and Karlu Capkovi, the year 1939 saw two other works by Kapralova that featured the violin, both unfinished. The composer mentioned working on a Sonatina for Violin and Piano in letters to her parents during the month of May, but not even a rough draft has been found. On the other hand, in 1939 Kapralova completed the first two movements of her Concertino for Violin, Clarinet, and Orchestra, op.21, leaving the third movement and the orchestration incomplete. The concertino has been reconstructed by Drs. Milos Stedron and Leos Faltus from Brno; the public premiere was in Hradec Kralove in 2002, performed by the local philharmonic orchestra conducted by Tomas Hanus and with soloists Pavel Wallinger and Pavel Busek. It was published in 2003 by Editio Barenreiter Praha.
Many thanks to Karla Hartl and the Kapralova Society, to the Moravian Museum of Brno, to the Janacek Academy of Performing Arts Library, to ing. Josef Kapral, and to Dr. Veroslav Nemec of Amos Editio for helping to make these wonderful pieces accessible.
- Timothy Cheek
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