Two of Janáček's symphonic poems commemorate the First World War, Taras Bulba and the Balada blanická. It has not hitherto been appreciated that their free form and final apotheoses probably represent Janáček's reimagining of Liszt's symphonic poems, which are the focus of a modernist manifesto for Czech music (1913) by Václav Štěpán. Moreover, the contrast between the two disguises an essential link. The main intertexts of Taras Bulba seem to be Liszt's Hunnenschlacht and a Gogol story, Taras Bulba, both glorifying warfare; those of the Balada blanická are a poem by Jaroslav Vrchlický and an essay by T. G. Masaryk, both apparently pacifist. Yet the apotheoses of the two pieces are curiously similar, since both quote the same principal theme, a folksong about war. Together the two pieces demonstrate the ability of Janáček's programme music to hold different intertexts in tension, in ways that ensure psychological truth.


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pp. 16-44
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