Speech Melodies

Paul Mitchinson

  • Janáček: Years of a Life, Volume I by John Tyrrell
    Faber, 971 pp, £60.00, November 2006, ISBN 0 571 17538 4
  • Janáček: Years of a Life, Volume II by John Tyrrell
    Faber, 1074 pp, £60.00, November 2007, ISBN 978 0 571 23667 1

Pierre Boulez took his final bow in the opera pit last summer at the Aix-en-Provence festival. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the production was the music chosen: Leoš Janáček’s opera From the House of the Dead, written in 1928, the final year of his life. Boulez seemed a little ambivalent about the choice. ‘Janáček never develops anything,’ he said in an interview printed in the programme; his works display a ‘kind of primitivism’ with ‘no complexity’ in form or expression. Still, he acknowledged, ‘it is fascinating to see how much power Janáček’s primitivism can wield.’

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