Performance | From Obscurity to the Operatic Canon | Modern Era | Opera
The twentieth century was replete with the names of composers hailing from every part of the western world, each boasting their own personal style. The conductor Sir Charles Mackerras was studying in Czechoslovakia in 1947 when he first heard Janáček’s music being played in rehearsal. Mackerras was immediately drawn to the music, as well as to the challenge of making it accessible to western Europe, London in particular.
Janáček’s career was not without success, but his four greatest works were written during the last 10 years of his life. The composer’s most productive time was during the 1920s, after the prospect of a free Czechoslovak state had finally been realized in 1918, and his chosen themes and stories not only told intimate tales of humanity but also reflected world events.
Mackerras and various scholars worked tirelessly during the 1950s and early 1960s to revive Janáček’s original orchestrations. To this end, most of the Prague performances underwent extensive re-orchestration, as during the preceding decades they had been doctored and smoothed out, removing much of their raw sonority.
It was these inconsistencies that motivated Mackerras to restore the scores in accordance with the composer’s original intentions. The much-loved Mackerras conducted performances of Janáček’s work all over the world for the rest of his life.
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