Lisa A. Alzo, Ithaca, New York A vast number of Slovaks emigrated to North America between 1875 and 1914, yet their history, and especially the history of the women among them, has been largely invisible. If given voice, their stories could be both compelling and engaging, yet few have been told. Although often overlooked, the Slovak woman was frequently the “backbone” of the family in the New World – serving as not only the homemaker, but also the disciplinarian, financial manager and teacher of religious morals, values and other lessons. It was the woman of the household who ensured that the cultures and traditions from the Old Country were preserved in America and passed on to successive generations. This session highlights the various roles assumed by the Slovak immigrant woman and how such roles impacted the family and society; provides an overview of some of the existing (albeit scant) literature on Slovak women; and discusses what is currently being done, as well as what can be done, to make the lives of Slovak women more visible.
Three Slovak Women: Telling the Story of One
Slovak-American Family Using Oral and Social History
Lisa A. Alzo, Ithaca, New York While conducting genealogical research, it is easy to become absorbed in finding and obtaining facts about our ancestors and to overlook the stories of how their lives were influenced by local, national, or world historical events and conditions. Often, the most interesting details are not found in the records or documents uncovered, but in the life stories of family members and individuals who lived through such key events in history as the first two World Wars, the immigration wave, or the Great Depression.
Three Slovak Women chronicles the lives of three generations of Slovak women living in the steel town of Duquesne, Pennsylvania. This session covers how the presenter used oral history and social history, in addition to traditional genealogical research, to flesh out the story of her ancestors. This talk also discusses how the immigrant experience, Slovak culture and customs, and economic, employment, and social factors shaped the three different perspectives of three generations of women and details the oral history techniques and historical research processes used to build the story.
Teaching a Foreign Language Long Distance
Radha Balasubramanian, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska In the fall of 2002, two Russian language courses were taught for the first time long distance from UNL to UNO. Both of the classes were third-year Russian. One was devoted to reading literature, while the other concentrated on conversation and composition. Since the presenter was pioneering this course in her department, a lot of detailed effort was required to prepare for the course. She had to come up with innovative ways of teaching. For example, she had to change the way she collected homework: she had the students’ work collected and faxed once a week from UNO. The vocabulary quizzes and tests were not proctored, so she had to come up with alternative ways of conducting them: the tests were written and faxed immediately, while the originals were also sent by campus mail. Because there was a delay in returning the corrected work, she always discussed typical mistakes before every class from the previous week's homework. She had to be aware of two sets of students at different places (in front of her and on the TV monitor) and had to visually orient herself to keep speaking to both groups. Sometimes she set up a discussion between the two groups, and these were successful. On some topics the UNO students would prepare to ask UNL students a set of questions and vice versa. Sometimes the audio or the video would fail, and this would require an alternative approach; for example, when the audio needed to be fixed, she had to change a conversation class to a group discussion among UNO and UNL students separately. The evaluative comments from the students at the end of the semester were very favorable, and the presenter even had some unanimous scores of "excellent."
Building Bridges: The VIA Foundation’s Flood Relief Campaign in the United States
Jiří Bárta, VIA Foundation, Prague, Czech Republic This presentation shows what the VIA Foundation has done to connect donors in the United States with seriously flood affected communities in the Czech Republic. It should also create awareness that there are opportunities for building a long-term relationship for the future.
Image of the United States of America in Texts of Miroslav Holub from the 1960s
Michal Bauer, University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice, Czech Republic When entering Czech literature in the 1940s, Miroslav Holub was close to the group, “Ohnice.” However, his activity among the writers of the journal, Květen, in the second half of the 1950s has been more known. With his emphasis on rationality, factuality, and triviality, he crystallized as one of the most significant personalities representing not only this journal but also the whole generation. Because of his science-based occupation (he was an immunologist, and he endeavored to bring arts and science together), he sought parallels in both spheres and, at the same time, preferred facts in the arts as he did in science. His scientific activity brought him to the United States several times. Already, in the 1960s, these stays were reflected in his artistic texts – prosaic, poetic, or journalistic ones – resulting in pieces in contemporary presses and three books: Anděl na kolečkách (“Angel on wheels”), Žít v New Yorku (“Live in New York”), and Beton (“Concrete”). Within those three books, published between 1963 and 1970, there is perceived his development from a “duty” to regard America with an ideological view of a man of the East to rational meditations on the form and situation of the North American world and its inhabitants. Holub´s view oscillates among fascination, enthusiasm, and disillusion. His view as a scientist is markedly positive, but his appreciation as a tourist is ambivalent. He holds the position that he began in the second half of the 1950s, when describing native Czech vulgarities, and tries to apply it also in the US: it is an attempt to catch a common man in a contemporary situation. Namely, in his book of poetry, Beton, New York space is being displaced by its inhabitants. It seems that Holub is getting nearer to the poetics of Group 42 and is trying to discover a new reality, to denominate and depict it in a new way. He uses the same methods that Jiří Kolář elects in poetry and visual arts – and founds his poetic methods. Reality becomes aesthetics in his eyes: he finds poetry in trivial things and current events. The outskirts of Czech towns has been replaced by the maze of New York and other American towns where he finds life, not in the motion of cars, but in them as tokens of human existence.
Czech Sokols in Iowa
Janice A. Beran, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa Just three years after Dr. Miroslav Tyrš founded the Sokol in Prague, Czechoslovakia on February 16, 1862, 67 men founded the first Sokol unit in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 14, 1865. Wherever there was a Czech settlement in the Midwest, a Sokol gymnastic club was founded. This paper focuses on the Sokol in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, examining the history of Sokols in American society. In 1958, when the Cedar Rapids Sokol celebrated its 85th anniversary it included more than 400 members in its Gymnastic Association (men) and almost 100 members in the Sbor Sokolice Renata Thyrš (women). Since its founding, Sokol, in its program of physical training with marching, calisthenics and gymnastics, has had a systematic course of instruction that is designed to address the needs of the physical body from childhood to old age. Frank Machovský, an outstanding international gymnast from Czechoslovakia, gave skilled and dedicated leadership to the children's program, trained the board of instructors, and directed many exhibitions including for the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles. The Cedar Rapids Sokol participated in district Slets, every national Slet, and every international Slet, including the great reunion in 1994.
In 1908 they built a large three-story Sokol Hall to house classes and provide a site for their fundraising activities. Throughout its more than 130-year existence, Sokols have been an integral part of maintaining cultural identity. Currently, they struggle with dwindling membership and participation even thought they have adapted their program to include contemporary equipment and less regimented exercise. They take justifiable pride in their role in gymnastic training of children in Iowa and the number of competitive gymnasts that have had basic gymnastic training in their program.
Bohemian Hall in Astoria, New York
Peter Bísek, Publisher/Editor, Americké Listy, Glen Cove, New York Nearly bankrupt in the early 90s, more than 100-year-old Bohemian Hall and Garden (www.bohemianhall.com) is today a thriving cultural center where anybody of the Czech, Slovak, or Czechoslovak heritage can send their children to the Czech School, attend various events staged during the year, or just bring their American friends to enjoy good ethnic food and great beer under the majestic trees (including President Havel’s linden tree).
Publishing an Ethnic Newspaper Americké Listy -- an Ego Trip or Service?
Peter Bísek, Publisher/Editor, Americké Listy, Glen Cove, New York So much time, effort and energy goes into publishing an ethnic periodical that it is very tempting – and easy – to forget the reason for its existence: service to the community. Is it possible to prevent this from happening? This presentation explores that question.
Five Hundred Years of Blahnik Family History:
Searching for One’s Ancestors in the Old Country
Joel Blahnik, President, Alliance Publications, Inc., Fish Creek, Wisconsin
This presentation discusses the history and place of the family name, "Blahnik," in Czech culture. Dr. Frank Roubnik, ethnologist and author of many books of the Czech Chodsko culture of SW Bohemia, states that the family name of "Blahnik" is one of the oldest names in Chodsko culture. References are made to the Latin name of "Blasius" of the 12th century, and this then became the root of the Blahnik name. Specifically, church and town records indicate the name of "Blahnik" was recorded in 1482, and now a successive genealogical inventory (including names and possessions) is part of this family's treasure.
Here are some other interesting facts regarding this family name: there are two celebrated mountains in the Czech Republic with this name: 1) the legendary "Mount Blaník" where the Knights of St. Wenceslaus reside; this is located at Lounovice pod Blaníkem, which is near Vlašim in Central Bohemia southwest of Prague; and 2) Mount Blahník, which is near the German border just south of Chodská Lhota, about 3 miles from where the first name of "Blahník" is recorded and about 1/2 way between Klatovy and Domažlice. Additionally, there is a "Blahníkova" street in Prague 3. Blahník is a distinctive name in Czech history consisting of an esteemed body of esteemed Czech artists, musicians, play-rights, architects, millers, and border guards. [Paper to be read by Anita Smisek, OP.]
Four Immigration Waves to Canada
Josef Čermák, President, Czech and Slovak Association of Canada, Toronto If we do not count the Moravian Brethren, the first immigration wave started around the end of the 19th century, very slowly in the beginning (a few miners in British Columbia), gaining momentum with settlements in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and becoming fairly steady in the first three decades of the 20th century. Members of the next three immigration waves were largely refugees: in 1938–39, refugees from Hitler; in 1948, refugees from Communism; and in 1968, the exodus following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact Armies.
Cultural Contributions of Czech and Slovak Canadians
Josef Čermák, President, Czech and Slovak Association of Canada, Toronto The Moravian Brethren, who attempted to establish a mission in Canada in 1752, made the first cultural contribution. By 1800, they had three missions in Labrador and had built a church in Fairfield, Ontario. The 1939 and 1948 exodus from Czechoslovakia brought to Canada a number of excellent musicians: composer Oskar Morawetz, conductor Walter Susskind, singer Jan Rubeš, a ‘territorial Czech’ named Nicholas Goldschmidt (his father of Belgian descent and mother of Viennese), several scientists (including Vladimír Krajina) and, depending on how we define culture, Baťa. After 1968, Canada received several writers (including Josef Škvorecký) and a significant number of scientists and teachers.
The Cleveland Czech Legionaries
Lawrence C. Cerny and Elaine L. Cerny, CERNYLAND OF UTICA, Huber Hts., Ohio This video presents the valiant effort of a group of patriotic American Czech and Slovak immigrants to help establish the Czechoslovak Republic. These Legionaries joined forces with the nations of France, Great Britain, and Russia during World War I. At the conclusion of the war, these loyal patriots remained in Europe to lend their support, helping to establish the
Republic of Czechoslovakia. This presentation was made possible with the help of the Krizek Family of the Washington, D.C. area and the late John Souders of Dayton, Ohio.
Civil Society: Nonprofit Organizations in a Market Economy
Milton Cerny, Past President, American Friends of the Czech Republic, Washington, D.C. This paper discusses the developing philanthropic sector worldwide with an emphasis on the Czech Republic and the creation and development of the U. S. charitable sector, emphasizing public benefit and mutual organizations, their development and functions, and focuses in part on the American Friends of the Czech Republic and its promotion and advancement of philanthropic activity in the areas of humanitarian relief, education, culture, and the Masaryk Project. Also discussed is grant making and fund-raising in the international context of cross border grant making.
T. G. Masaryk Stands Tall in Washington:
The Creation and Completion of a Significant Memorial
Milton Cerny, Past President, American Friends of the Czech Republic, Washington, D.C. The creation of a memorial for the first President of Czechoslovakia acknowledges that Masaryk still lives in the hearts and minds of all people who respect human rights and have the will to fight for democratic ideals. This presentation discusses the creation of the concept, the mobilization of Czech American communities in the United States and the Czech Republic, and how the project was funded. A 20-minute video is available.
Národní Sínĕ v Texasu: National Halls and Gathering Places in Texas (1880-1925)
Retta Slavik Chandler, Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center, La Grange, Texas This presentation provides an historical sketch of some of the first halls built in Texas in the period from 1880 through 1925. Motivated by common interests and the desire to communicate and help each other, these halls were built by the early Czech and German immigrants to Texas. The halls served as social gathering places for the community, and the ones to be presented are still in use today and serve the communities for numerous functions. In some cases the first halls were rebuilt or remodeled. Pictures comparing the original to the hall today are included in this presentation.
The Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center - La Grange
Retta Slavik Chandler, Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center, La Grange, Texas Spearheaded by a coalition of Czech-founded groups under the umbrella of Texans of Czech Ancestry (TOCA), the story of the incorporation and progress of TCHCC to date is presented here. Also included is the restoration of the Kalich House and the building of the Muziky, Muziky amphitheater, and the goals and plans for the future development of the Center.
Visual Documentation of Czech/Slovak Heritage in the Chicago Area
Kyle Churness, Wheaton, Illinois The presentation gives a visual documentation of Czech/Slovak heritage in the Chicago area. This includes the Pilsen neighborhood, the Cicero/Berwyn area, and other suburban towns. It focuses on churches, notable restaurants, stores, and monuments. Included are images and information about Sokols, as well as the Bohemian National Cemetery. Information about significant historical personalities have been incorporated as well.
Czech Language Program at the University of Chicago
Steven Clancy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
This presentation discusses the Czech Language Program at the University of Chicago in the context of their wider program offerings in Slavic Languages and Literatures. Currently, the university offers two years of Czech language instruction with complementary courses in Czech literature, West Slavic linguistics, and Cognitive Linguistics. They have an undergraduate major in Czech and an annual travel and study fellowship through the department’s Prochazka Funds. Also discussed are the challenges of enrollment, curriculum design, and the implementation of technology in their language courses. Input and suggestions from the panelists and participants are most welcome.
Steven Clancy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois This talk provides a demonstration of technological materials used in conjunction with The Case Book for Czech* as well as a sample of computer-based video listening comprehension exercises. The Case Book projects are each accompanied by CD-ROMs with electronic versions of the text, complete with male and female native speaker recordings of all examples used in the book. The interactive exercises on the CD are set at elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels so as to be applicable in any Czech course. The interactive exercises provide useful feedback to students as they work their way through the materials in class or on their own.
The film, Lotrando a Zubejda, Zdeněk Sverák’s musical adaptation of two of Čapek’s tales, is well suited to an Elementary Czech course and complements the material covered in the most commonly used Czech textbooks. The film is full of witty, but difficult songs and moderately paced dialogue, ideal for the first-year course. The computer interface makes it possible for students to watch the film clips multiple times, to access parts of the script or lyrics to the songs, and to complete vocabulary and comprehension exercises.
*Sample chapters available at www.seelrc.org/casebooks.
Narrative Abundance in Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk
Craig Cravens, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
The paper is an examination of the narrative style of Jaroslav Hašek’s novel in an attempt to discover what makes The Good Soldier Švejk so different from the author’s previous stories and elevates its main character to the level of national stereotype. It is the presenter’s contention that Hašek’s exploitation of colloquial Czech with regard to characters, which he avoided in his earlier stories, in conjunction with the narrator’s literary Czech creates a sort of doubling of consciousness whereby the character of Josef Švejk becomes a psychologically individualized.
The presentation begins by placing Hašek’s novel within the world literature of the period. The appearance of Švejk (1921-23) coincided with the peak of the genre or type of novel often referred to as the Modern psychological novel. Authors such as James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf concentrated almost exclusively on the human psyche. This is the point at which the European novel in general turned inward to focus on the processes of human cognition. It is instructive to compare Švejk to this Modernist psychological method. With Hašek’s novel, we seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum – the a-psychological novel, if such a thing may be said to exist. Rather than a character individualized psychologically, we have one characterized by sociological situation. This involves an inevitable generalizing process opening the way for allegory and sociologically illustrative characterization. In this respect, we can see The Good Soldier Švejk as akin to novels such as Fielding’s Tom Jones and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, wherein characters often serve as springboards for the narrator’s unvarnished commentary on larger societal and world events.
Švejk, however, functions on a more psychological level. The relationship between the narrator and character here is crucial. Unlike in Hašek’s earlier stories, in Švejk we find a clear discrepancy between the discourses of character and narrator, creating a clear psychological divide between character and narrator. The Good Soldier Švejk is not a psychological novel, and the main character seems to have no revealed psychological depth. Through a sort of narrative sleight of hand, however, Hašek creates the image of psychological depth of character only partially revealed.
Czech Immigration to South Dakota
Michael A. Cwach, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota Immigration to South Dakota is not unlike many states. There was both direct immigration from Bohemia and Moravia and immigration from previously established Czech settlements in America. The first known Czechs who spent some time in what is now South Dakota were two soldiers of the 6th Iowa Cavalry. The first permanent settler who would come to the region (1867) was a man from Domažlice, Jan Dufek. But it was Frank Bem who led the first group of permanment settlers eventually to the Dakota Territory from Chicago in 1869. Later, the town of Tabor was established, and this served as a center of Czech activities and when western South Dakota opened, Czechs settled there, too.
Certainly, the most important work regarding Czech immigration to South Dakota can be found in the book published in 1920, Památní Kniha, Dějiny Čechův ve státu South Dakota (Memorial Book, History of the Czechs in the State of South Dakota) by Josef Dvořák. This book is the primary source of material for this paper.
Two examples of Czech-Americans' Influence in American Popular Musical Culture
in the Early Twentieth-Century: Bohumír Kryl and J. S. Zámečník
Michael Cwach, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota There are many peoples from all corners of the earth that have helped to shape popular music in America. Two Czech-Americans – one born in Bohemia, the other born in America – added to America’s popular musical culture and entertainment while at the height of their careers.
During the time of the “Golden Age of Bands 1865-1915” (a period when nearly every town had a band), one of the greatest figures of all that time was the cornet virtuoso and bandleader Bohumír Kryl, a Czech born in Hořice by Hradec Králové. He arrived in America in 1889 and played the cornet with such famous bands as Sousa and Innes. In 1906 Kryl formed his own band. He was a showman and a shrewd businessman. Even named by some who knew him well as the “robber baron of the music field.” Through his live performances, recordings, and self-promotion, he was certainly a personality that loomed large in many respects. This presentation includes more details about his life and the playing of some cylinder recordings of Kryl and his band.
The second half of the presentation includes a figure from the silent movie era. “No one can deny that more good music is being heard in the motion picture houses than anywhere else in this country. Where else can you hear orchestras of symphonic proportions playing the best music of the past and present to the extent that it is heard in these theater?“ This quote, from the composer of the music for the first movie to win an Academy Award (Wings), is from a 1927 Metrome article about the Cleveland, Ohio-born, Czech-American composer J.S. Zámečník. Like many young Czech-American musicians of the late 19th century, Zámečník sought instruction in the “old country.” There he took instruction from Antonín Dvořák in music composition. Eventually he returned to Cleveland and became the music director of the new Hippodrome Theater. Later, he started to write and arrange music for the Cleveland based publisher Sam Fox. His output was quite large, and after the demise of the silent film industry he turned to writing for public school bands. The presentation includes a more complete picture of J.S Zámečník, including samples of his music.
The Relevance of Václav Havel for American Undergraduates
David S. Danaher, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
This paper discusses undergraduate reactions to Havel’s writing in a literature-in-translation course taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during fall semester 2002. The course was entitled: “The Writings of Václav Havel: Critique of Modern Society.” Twenty-three students enrolled, twenty-two of whom were undergraduates; of the twenty-two, most were first-year students who had little to no prior knowledge of Havel. The course challenged students to test Havel’s own hypothesis regarding the relationship between the post-totalitarian East and the post-democratic West. In this regard, Havel wrote that communist society represented “an inflated caricature of modern life in general” and that the experiences of those who lived under communism “stand as a kind of warning to the West, revealing to it its own latent tendencies.” Students were required – in class discussions of the texts (dissident essays, plays, speeches), in their own “Open Letters”, and in informal reaction journals – to translate Havel’s analysis of the post-totalitarian system into contemporary American terms. This paper reports on the student reactions during the course and presents a judgment on the relevancy of Havel’s thought for American undergraduates today.
Zdenĕk V. David, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C. A perennial problem in Czech historiography has involved the relationship between modern Czech political culture, which emerged in the nineteenth century, and the Bohemian Reformation of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and how to deal with the awkward 1620-1780 intermezzo of the Counter Reformation. Traditionally, the two divergent viewpoints on this relationship were defined by Thomas Masaryk, who postulated a disruption in the Czech intellectual life between the sixteenth century and the Enlightenment, and by Josef Pekař, who sought to integrate the Counter Reformation into a seamless web of a continuous cultural development. Masaryk viewed the ideological content of the awakening as liberal and universal, Pekař as ethnic and national.
The paper is concerned with recent literature dealing with the Czech national awakening, its sources, character, and objectives. It surveys the leading treatments on the topic in Czech, English, Russian and German: Hugh L. Agnew, Origins of the Czech National Renascence (1993); Josef Haubelt, České osvícenství (1986); Josef Kočí, České národní obrození (1978); Alexandr S. Myl’nikov, Vznik národní osvícenské ideologie v českých zemích: Prameny národního obrození (1974); and a Russian language version, Epokha Prosveshcheniia v cheshskikh zemliakh: Ideologiia natsional’noe samosoznanie, kul’tura (1977); Walter Schamschula, Die Anfänge der tschechischen Erneuerung und das deutsche Geistesleben, 1740-1800 (1973); and Bedřich Slavík, Od Dobnera k Dobrovskému (1975). The survey finds that existing literature has paid scant attention to the link between the sixteenth-century Utraquist culture and the national awakening. Schamschula’s voluminous work of impeccable scholarship, for instance, manages to avoid any consideration of the specific relationship between the literature and historiography of the Czech Reformation and the Bohemian Enlightenment. He attributes the concern of the early awakeners with sixteenth-century literature to a general interest in classicism and neo-Humanism during the Enlightenment.
These findings suggest the need to freshly examine the actual transmission of political and cultural values over a gap of almost two centuries from the Bohemian Reformation to the national revival. The transfer could be traced through several channels, mainly (1) reprinting of sixteenth-century classics, (2) reproducing sixteenth-century writings in school and university textbooks, (3) celebrating Bohemian Reformation in history and literature, and (4) embracing as a political program the historical rights of the pre-1620 Bohemian state.
Remarks on The Klácelka of Želizy and on It’s Mentor, František Matouš Klácel
Stacey B. Day, World Health Organization, Chestnut Ridge, New York In 1845 the sculptor Václav Levý carved the cave and adjacent statues (Žižka, Prokop Holý, Hussite Warriors) and named it the Klácelka, in honor of František Klácel. Levý and Klácel were under the patronage of Baron Veith who was then setting up Slavín in the same forest of Želizy. This was to be a Valhalla of monuments extolling mythological and ancestral forebears of the Czech Nation. Thus the Klácelka was a shrine establishing “patriotism” and “national unity.” Here Klácel met with men like the painters Navrátil, Q. Mánes, and the priests Čermák and Bolzano. These men were undoubtedly aware of the spreading national sentiment and were influenced by the “free-thinking” of the French Revolution. They were part of the “mind” that anticipated the conflagrations that broke out all over Europe in 1848.
This short paper discusses the symbolism of the Klácelka theme, harkening back to protestant memory of the Hussite Wars. The Hapsburg monarchy had increasingly obliterated the Czech language; germanization of the population was increasing; policy had made the Czechs a subservient people not to be granted “nationhood.”
Klácel, then in Holy Orders, sought to face down this “power structure,” the presenter believes, by founding his Czech-Moravian Brotherhood and establishing his philosophy of “humanism” – Vesměrnost. He attracted to his group such persons as the physician Jan Helcelet, Božena Němcová, Veronika Vrbíková, and others.
In discussing this theme the presenter’s position is that the 1845-1848 events molded Klácel. He does not see Klácel as a “utopian idealist dreamer” but as a genuine thinker expressing the Slavic spirit, facing the absolute power of Vienna – Church and Emperor – German over Slav, and, of course, failing. This was the spiritual strength that he brought to America. Had his destiny been different, had he had some English background support, the Eastern American (New England) establishment might have heeded his teaching. As it was, in the exuberant and difficult pioneering life of the Mid West, he was probably more in exile in his new country than had he been in the Czech Lands. This session deals only with this aspect of one who was, the presenter believes, quite a remarkable man.
Martinů’s Arrival in America: Three Piano Pieces from 1941
Erik Entwistle, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Three short, virtually unknown piano pieces, occasional works written during the Martinů’s first months in America as a refugee from war-torn Europe, provide a fascinating window into the composer’s circumstances and state of mind. The haunting Mazurka, Martinů’s first composition written on American soil, contains symbolic references to a past life forever lost, while its closing bars signal hope for the future. Here the historical context is critical to understanding and interpreting the work. In Dumka No. 3 Martinů incorporates motives from his tragic dream-opera Julietta, as he did in the Mazurka, but with very different expressive results. The last of the three, Merry Christmas 1941, is the most apparently optimistic. Its rhythms are fully characteristic and the simple ternary form contrasts joy with nostalgia in a pattern typical of the composer’s lighter works. Taken together, these three works underscore certain fundamental aspects of Martinů’s aesthetic, significantly in evidence during this critical time in the composer’s life.