Elements of Moravian folk music in Janácek's Second string quartet
Patty, Austin T.
Leos Janacek (1854-1928) was a composer from Moravia, a province of Czechoslovakia. Moravian peasants maintained a musical tradition distinct from the folk music of the neighboring provinces of Bohemian and Slovakia. Janacek's career as a composer, initially rather inauspicious, underwent a radical change starting in 1888. The catalyst for this change was his involvement in Moravian folk music. Janacek's enthusiasm for his native folk music began with his first ethnographic excursions into the Moravian countryside in 1888. The Introduction to this paper traces Janacek's growth as a composer from his early conservatism to his mature, idiosyncratic style, fiddlers, and dulcimer players in the Second String Quartet. Janacek's transcriptions of folk bands and individual folk instruments provide insights into how he transformed and adapted folk practices. Janacek seems to have developed his use of motives throughout the layers of his music from the folk practice of inserting motivic interjections in between phrases. The Second String Quartet also uses accompaniment patterns found in Moravian folk dances. Adopting folk techniques had many implications for Janacek's static harmonies, as Chapter V points out. Chapter VI shows how cadential patterns found in Moravian folk music are used in the Second String Quartet. Furthermore, Janacek applied these patterns to higher structural levels. For instance, the folk melodies sometimes outline the subtonic before cadencing on the tonic; Janacek goes further by using the subtonic harmonically as a contrast before returning to the tonic. Thus, the subdominant functions like the dominant. This chapter discusses how both "Moravian modulation" and the use of the mediant are additional ideas found in Moravian folk music which Janacek appropriated on larger structural levels in the Second String Quartet. Finally, Chapter VII deals with modes and degree inflection. Modes are treated flexibly in Moravian folk music; often, modes are not firmly established since the scale degrees of none of the modes predominate. Likewise, Janacek borrows freely from a variety of modes sometimes establishing none, and furthermore, he uses the principle of degree inflection harmonically.