The Wandering Madman

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Janáček's grave at the Central Cemetery in Brno. The gravestone bears a copy of several bars of the autograph manuscript and the inscription "... with his strength gone, and his heart in the dust, like a tree ..."[sic], borrowed from the chorus.[1]

The Wandering Madman (in Czech: Potulný šílenec, JW 4/43) is a choral composition for soprano, tenor, baritone and male chorus, written in 1922 by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček to the words of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. It was inspired by Tagore's 1921 lecture in Czechoslovakia. The Wandering Madman is considered one of the most important of Janáček's choral works.[2]

Background and structure[edit]

In June 1921, Janáček attended Tagore's lecture in Prague. He later mentioned the lecture in an article for the Lidové noviny newspaper.[3] He took down the writer's "speech melodies" and apparently found an inspiration in his poems. The next year, from July to November, he composed a choral work based on a poem by Tagore. The poem was translated to the Czech language under the title Potulný šílenec (transl. F. Balej).[3]

The Wandering Madman premiered in Rosice u Brna on 21 September 1924 in a performance by Pěvecké sdružení moravských učitelů (PSMU) (The Choral Society of Moravian Teachers) with soprano solo Eliška Janečková and conductor Ferdinand Vach.[3] The same year, the composition was performed with the composer in attendance in Prague's Mozarteum, as a part of a concert organized by the Prague Conservatory.[3]

The composition is scored for soprano, tenor, baritone and TTBB choir. The duration of the work is approximately five minutes.[3] The autograph is dated 12 November 1922.

The Janáček specialist Alena Němcová wrote about the composition: "Janáček in this work examines the human fate and looks back on the extremely difficult finding his own way, in which each step was a step of fierce searching. In the fate of the wandering madman, who again looks for a "touchstone", we see a true picture of Janáček's life..."[2]

The gravestone of the Janáček's grave at the Central Cemetery in Brno bears a copy of several bars of the autograph manuscript and the inscription "... with his strength gone, and his heart in the dust, like a tree ...", borrowed from the work.[1]

Words[edit]

For his composition, Janáček used a story from Tagore's book The Gardener (1913):[4]

Score[edit]

  • Janáček, Leoš (1976). Potulný šílenec (score). Prague: Editio Supraphon (H 6003). 

Recordings[edit]

  • Janáček, Leoš: Male Choruses CD, (Prague Philharmonic Choir, cond. Josef Veselka). Supraphon, recorded in 1977, published in 1995. (SU 3022-2 211)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Endler, Jiří (2010). Příběhy brněnských hřbitovů (in Czech). Brno: Šimon Ryšavý. p. 69. ISBN 978-80-7354-078-4. 
  2. ^ a b Němcová, Alena; Krumpholc, Jiří. "Janáček a PSMU" (in Czech). Pěvecké sdružení moravských učitelů (The Choral Society of Moravian Teachers). Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Simeone, Nigel; Tyrrell, John; Němcová, Alena (1997). Janáček's works: a catalogue of the music and writings of Leoš Janáček. Oxford University Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-19-816446-3.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  4. ^ Tagore, Rabindranath (1913). "The Gardener". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2011-04-18.