June 14, 2014
Leoš Janáček is a composer whose music is unmistakable in its unique harmonic language and turn of phrase. A few minutes spent listening to any of his music, particularly his late works, brings a person into an intimate world of motivic melody and wonder. But what many who’ve loved his On an Overgrown Path or Taras Bulba: Rhapsody for Orchestra may not realize is that the composer had unusual inspiration for his late artistic output: a one sided love affair with a woman nearly 40 years his younger.
When Janáček met with his first major success with the Prague premiere of his opera Jenůfa in 1916, he was already in his sixties. But in the wake of this accomplishment, he began an affair with singer Gabriela Horváthová. Although this caused his wife Zdenka an immense heartbreak triggering an attempt to commit suicide, they remained married in a state of “informal divorce.” Within a year of his brief affair with Horváthová, Janacek met and fell the young and beautiful Kamila Stösslová in spite of her being married and nearly forty years younger.
Janáček would write to her well over 700 letters, detailing his deep feeling for her. Although she would often write back to him, her language and tone indicates that his affections were unreciprocated. Nevertheless, his obsession for her served as an inspiration for many of his compositions for the remainder of his life, including the beautiful String Quartet No. 2 “Intimate Letters.” This subtitle given by the composer is a reference to the very personal and directed content of the music with Stösslová at the center.
What does the music of unrequited love sound like? Come hear this work along with the music of Haydn and Beethoven as the Dallas Chamber Music Society presents the Takács String Quartet in recital on Monday, October 6, 2014, 8:00PM at Caruth Auditorium.
Also, take a listen to this brief discussion of “Intimate Letters” including how Janáček directly incorporates his feelings toward Stösslová in this NPR broadcast.
“Janáček’s unrequited love.”
– Zachariah Stoughton, Contributing Writer