Neznámá skica Smetanova Pražského karnevalu

Title: Neznámá skica Smetanova Pražského karnevalu
Source document: Musicologica Brunensia. 2010, vol. 45, iss. 1-2, pp. [163]-169
  • ISSN
    1212-0391 (print)
    2336-436X (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
Bedřich Smetana started thinking about composing the orchestral cycle Pražský karneval (Prague Carnival), to be eventually offered to a foreign publisher, first times at the turn of the 1870s and 1880s, when this idea was probably initiated by his friend and former pupil Jan Ludevít Procházka. He returned back to this subject after he finished the opera Čertova stěna (The Devil's Wall), in the middle of 1882; the String Quartett D minor, however, became his priority. It is possible, that up to November of that year, Smetana could have worked simultaneously also on Pražský karneval. In November and December, due to the strong attack of his illness, work was totally forbidden to him; he gradually returned back to composing only in January 1883. His creative powers really recovered in March, when he finished his second quartet. In April, he mentioned in his correspondence that he was working intensively on the opera Viola as well as the Pražský karneval. In May, he had the score of its first part (the opening and the Polonaise) half-done. He finished it, however, only in September, and never managed to start the work on the other parts of the cycle. He was able to compose only in short spells; to link to the previous, finished parts of the composition was a strain, keeping the ideas together and follow the logical compositional outlines became more and more difficult. While there are rather extensive drafts of all the other late compositions, the only known Pražský karneval draft was, up to now, the Polonaise, written by Smetana in 1858 into his music motive draft-book. The Smetana scholars considered it to be the only departing point of the whole composition. The above mentioned Smetana's compositional problems, however, suggested that this was not probable. In fact, Smetana indeed composed the draft, but, "well hidden", it totally escaped whole generations of the Smetana scholars. First information on it appeared in 1994, and in 1998 it became the property of Prague's Smetana Museum. The seventy-nine bars long pencil draft, in its style rather close to the score, consists of the whole introduction, fifty bars of the Polonaise, and a draft of a part of the violin solo, totally different from its final setting. The rather flowing and unshaky handwriting suggests it might have been written in the period of relatively favourable frame of mind, and creative concentration. Nothing indicates the time of its origin. It can be just hypothetically guessed: Smetana wrote it either between June and November 1882, while simultaneously working on his string quartet, or soon after he had finished it: i.e. starting in the middle of March and during April 1883, when he was able to switch easily from the draft to the work on the score. The draft is considered to be one of the most important recent Smetana discoveries. It could put the genesis of Pražský karneval into a new light; it also shows that even in the case of Bedřich Smetana, surprises in a form of newly appearing sources are still possible.
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