The Diary of One Who Disappeared

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The Diary of One Who Disappeared (Czech: Zápisník zmizelého) is a song cycle for tenor, alto, three female voices and piano, written by Czech composer Leoš Janáček.


On May 14, 1916, the Lidové noviny newspaper published verses titled "From a Pen of the Self-taught Writer". This "diary in poems" tells the story of a village boy who falls in love with the young gipsy girl Zefka (Žofka), and decides to leave his family and village with her. The verses made a deep impression on Leoš Janáček (cooperator of Lidové noviny in that time), and he decided to rework the poems into the song cycle. He created a work in twenty-two parts, accompanied by scenic demands. The cycle was composed during August 1917 and June 1919; the last modifications were finished in December 1920. The composer created the work simultaneously with other compositions.

The composition was based on the story of Janáček's friend and late love Kamila Stösslová. Janáček expressed his inclination in the letters to Stösslová, and he mentioned even the inspiration for the character of the gipsy girl Zefka: "...And the black gipsy girl in my Diary of One Who Disappeared – that was you. That's why there's so much emotional fire in the work. So much fire that if we both caught on, we'd be turn into ashes. ...And all through the work I thought of you! You were my Žofka. Žofka with a child in her arms, and he runs after her!..."[1]

The Diary was premiered at the Reduta Theatre in Brno on 18 April 1921 under the title The Diary of One Who Disappeared and Never Heard of Again; the end of the title was later crossed out. The tenor part was performed by Karel Zavřel, the alto by Ludmila Kvapilová-Kudláčková, and piano part played Janáček's student, the pianist and conductor Břetislav Bakala.

In 1943 the work was orchestrated by Ota Zitek and Vaclav Sedláček for a staged performance in Plzen. A recording of this version was made in 1987 (released 1989) by Brigitte Balleys and Philip Langridge with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado (DG 427 313–2 GH).


The author of the text was originally anonymous. Dr. Jan Mikeska in 1998 identified the author of the poems as the Wallachian writer Ozef Kalda.[2]


The cycle consists of twenty-two parts:

  • 1. Andante
  • 2. Con moto
  • 3. Andante
  • 4. Andante
  • 5. Adagio
  • 6. Allegro
  • 7. Con moto
  • 8. Andante
  • 9.
  • 10. Un poco più mosso
  • 11. Con moto
  • 12.
  • 13. Andante
  • 14. Adagio
  • 15. Allegro
  • 16. Adagio
  • 17. Recit.
  • 18. L´istesso tempo
  • 19. Andante
  • 20. Con moto
  • 21. Meno mosso
  • 22. Andante

The atmosphere of the work is mysterious; it contains emotional strength as well as psychological depth. The piano part bears some impressionist features. The soprano parts were rewritten and lowered by the composer for alto.[1] Approximate duration is 37 minutes.


  1. Arrangement suitable for: tenor, alto, three female voices and piano
    • arrangement for: orchestra
    • arrangement by: Ota Zítek and Václav Sedláček
    • performed by: Soloists, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, co Claudio Abbado
  2. Arrangement suitable for: tenor, alto, three female voices and piano
    • arrangement for: an instrumental ensemble
    • arrangement by: Geert van Keulen
    • performed by: Soloists, Schönberg Ensemble, co Reinbert de Leeuw
  3. Arrangement suitable for: tenor, alto, three female voices and piano
    • arrangement for: a chamber opera
    • arrangement by: Claude Berset
    • performed by: Soloists, pno Mireille Bellenot
  4. Arrangement suitable for: tenor, alto, three female voices and piano
    • arrangement for: guitar
    • arrangement by: Steve Howe
    • performed by: Excerpts, gui Steve Howe


  1. ^ a b Score, p. 12
  2. ^ Score, p. 10


  • Leoš Janáček: Zápisník zmizelého. Partitura e parti. Brno: Editio Janáček, 2004. H 0009. ISMN M-706527-01-7

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