T. Reich: Susreti sa suvremenim kompozitorima Jugoslavije [Meetings with contemporary Yugoslav composers] (Zagreb, 1972), 101–4
N. O’Loughlin: Slovenian Composition since the First World War (diss., U. of Leicester, 1978)
A. Rijavec: Slovenska glasbena dela [Slovene musical works] (Ljubljana, 1979), 99–106
(b Prague, 25 Sept 1906; d New York, 1 Jan 1942). Czech composer and conductor. He studied composition with Jirák at the Prague Conservatory (1924–7) and in Suk’s masterclasses there (1927–9), also taking piano lessons from Albín Šíma (1925–30). His personal and artistic fate was closely linked with the Prague Free Theatre (1928–39), where he worked as a composer and conductor with the renowned actor-dramatists Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich. He was also a member of the Mánes Music Group. When, after the Munich agreement, the Free Theatre was disbanded, Ježek emigrated with Voskovec and Werich to the USA (1939). He was founder-conductor of the Czechoslovak Choral Group (first concert 6 June 1941) in New York, where he remained until his death. The Czech colony in New York formed the Jaroslav Ježek Foundation in his honour, the Czech Academy of Science and Art made him a member posthumously in 1946, and in 1947 his ashes were returned to Prague.
By artistic and philosophical conviction Ježek belonged to the Czech inter-war avant garde. His musical satires at the Free Theatre expressed the strong opposition to the petty bourgeoisie, to fascism and to Nazism typical of left-wing intellectuals, who in the 1930s began to identify themselves actively with the workers. The music Ježek wrote for Voskovec’s and Werich’s plays, in which he developed his flair for melodic invention, grew out of the jazz and dance music of the 1920s, and created a genre that aspired towards serious music; it has continued to command interest (on the radio, on disc and as a source of themes for jazz improvisation). Ježek also wrote concert works, chiefly vocal, piano and chamber pieces. In these, too, he used elements of jazz, stylized in the manner of Gershwin, Burian or Schulhoff. Furthermore, he employed various experimental devices, such as black key/white key polytonality on the piano, the alternation of odd and even metres, motoric rhythms, Hába-type quarter-tones and so on. His chamber music, however, accentuates more neo-classical tendencies, and his songs draw their inspiration from French poetry or from the ‘poetist’ movement in Czech verse.
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