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Unsung premiere

Simon Mawer’s reflective novel The Glass Room, shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and one of my reads of the year, digresses midway into a sub-story about a shortlived composer.

Vitezlava Kapralova, born in 1915 in Janacek’s town, Brno, was a star pupil of the conductor Vaclav Talich and, in Paris, of the composer Bohuslav Martinu, whose lover she became (Martinu, though married, had two or three long-term liaisons, but that’s another story).

In 1937, Kapralova conducted the Czech Philharmonic and, a year later, the BBC Symphony Orchestra in her own Military Sinfonietta. She married Jiri Mucha, the Jugendstil painter’s son in April 1940 and, forced to flee Paris after the German invasion, died of tuberculosis in Montpellier two months later, aged 25. 

Her music, edgy and mildly adventurous, fell into disuse. You can hear samples (and see a picture of her) here. The only CD recording appeared last year on Koch.

There is, however, a rare chance to hear her Partita for piano and string orchestra live in Marylebone, London, tomorrow night (Helios Chamber Orchestra), and her string quartet in Gateshead next week (Skampa Quartet). The first is a UK premiere and free Czech beer is promised to those attending. Details here.

Kapralova’s is a singular voice, precocious and secure. If you admired Mawer’s novel as much as I did you will want to investigate its unofficial soundtrack.

Late extra: Victor Eskenasy has just sent me a picture of the spot where Martinu met Kapralova. I shall try to upload it here.

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Comments

  1. You can find more music samples as well as information about Kapralova’s recordings on her official website http://www.kapralova.org
    Besides Koch, several labels released her music on CD, including Supraphon and Albany Records. You can find more information about these discs here:
    http://www.kapralova.org/DISCOGRAPHY.htm

  2. Thanks so much for the little plug – I happened across this whilst checking up on our ‘web presence’ pre-concert yesterday morning. Happy to say that a good crowd turned up to hear our not completely ‘unsung’ premiere of the Kapralova Partita last night! Wonderfully played by our young Czech pianist Tomas Klement.
    The more we rehearsed the piece, the more we grew to love its beautifully unsettled and haunted sound-world… certainly clear influences from Janacek and Martinu, but she was clearly developing a strong musical personality despite the close personal and aesthetic proximity of Martinu – which is deeply impressive, considering she was just 23/24. A desperately cruel loss. Bizarrely, Jiri Mucha went on to marry yet another composer – a British girl who he met at a party in Leamington Spa (!) during the war… she’s still active and composing, in her late 80s in Prague… no idea what the music’s like.
    Another interesting literary connection – Kapralova’s father, Vaclav Kapral was the long term piano-duo partner and close friend of Ludvik Kundera – who’s reputation has long been eclipsed by that of his rather successful som.. Brno must have been a fascinating place between the wars. I’m looking forward to relaxing & reading The Glass Room now!

  3. certainly clear influences from Janacek and Martinu, but she was clearly developing a strong musical personality despite the close personal and aesthetic proximity of Martinu – which is deeply impressive,

  4. http://www.kapralova.org very good thank you so much

  5. certainly clear influences from Janacek and Martinu, but she was clearly developing a strong musical personality despite the close personal and aesthetic proximity of Martinu – which is deeply impressive,
    http://www.ahsapev.org
    http://www.teraskapatmaankara.com

  6. great. Symphony Orchestra in her own Military Sinfonietta.

  7. certainly clear influences from Janacek and Martinu, but she was clearly developing a strong musical personality despite the close personal and aesthetic proximity of Martinu – which is deeply impressive,

  8. I love this novel,thanks for reminding me this

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