THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD
1 Part2 Part3
SCENE 3. ŠAPKINíS
SEMI-HUMOROUS STORY (p. 126, bar 13 to p.
135, bar 9)
With the exception
of the little tune in double thirds at 
(Šapkin feeling sorry for himself) practically
the entire thematic material is derived from
three notes are used as a sort of Pain motif
(-8, etc.): the first two notes as a "cuckoo"
motif (+28, etc.): the whole of No. 31
with the first note doubled in value and in
imitation, becomes suitably swaggering music
for the attempted robbery (top of p. 129),
which overlaps with another metamorphosis-the
first three notes imitated a fourth lower
in an alla breve allegro unison passage picturing
the cops chasing the tramps . The whole
theme, above sustained brass, is transformed
into impressive music for the entry of the
police captain (p. 130, 3rd bar). A few bars
later at the 4 allegro, it is turned into
a humorous twisting figure as Šapkin recounts
that even chopping wood on the head of tramps
wonít help them to remember anything-if they
donít want to! In this quick 6/8 variation
form it further represents the cheeky Šapkin
(p. 131, bars 4-6, etc.), while the music
for the interrogating captain is the same
theme (No. 31) in a suitably authoritative
3/8 adagio (p. 131, bars 1-3; 7-8; 12 et seq.).
Yet, by rhythmic, harmonic, tempo, spacing
and instrumental subtleties and changes, the
different characterizations and different
dramatic situations are always perfectly clear.
tune in double-thirds reappears at  + 7
as the luckless Šapkin gets his ears pulled.
by the way, requires the singer taking this
part to have two voices-tenor and bass: and
he writes the voice part in two clefs-
The tiny fanfare-like
figure in the last three bars of p. 133 should
not go unnoticed. It is a characteristic thumbprint
of the composer and we will meet it again
in the interlude between the two scenes of
this act (see ): the student of Janáčekís
works will know of many other examples in
instrumental as well as operatic works.
SCENE 4. THE
CRAZED SKURATOV SHOUTS AND DANCES AND IS SUPPRESSED
BY THE CONVICTS
(p. 135, bar
10 to p. 136-up to the 3)
dual theme from Act I is one of only a handful
of themes which are common to more than one
act. His agonizing cries of "Oh, Lujza"-to
the exasperation of the convicts-is very moving.
The relentless Destiny theme reappears (p.
136 at the 3)-no one can hope to escape his
In the excellent
L.P. recording made at the Holland Festival
in 1954 a break is made at the foot of p.
136, the only sounds heard being the sobbing
of the crazed Skuratov and the sinister hollow
coughing of the consumptive-an excellent production
touch which is harrowing and deeply moving.
Interlude (p. 137)
A solo violin
sings out a beautifully serene "new"
theme, as though to tell us that the gift
of sleep, with its priceless blanket of unconsciousness,
relaxation, forgetfulness and the magic of
dreams is granted to all Godís creatures-alike
to the just and the unjust. If one chooses
to examine the mechanics of this "new"
theme it actually turns out to be a variation
of the lower voice of the Skuratov theme.
Perhaps Janáček meant us to view with compassion
the poor mad wretch who has passed into the
temporary relief of unconsciousness. Soft
tremolos on cello and bass, however, denote
that the sleep of the convicts is not an untroubled
one. Twice the eagle motif intervenes in an
energetic dance rhythm (hopeful dreams of
freedom?) and there is a counterpoint to the
transformed Skuratov motif which soars upwards
instead of having the usual drooping curves,
setting a more optimistic note.
outburst from the old convict on the stove,
thinking of the children he will never see
again, is a little masterpiece of controlled
but intensive expression (p. 138).
SCENE 5. THE
STORY OF AKULKA AND HER HUSBAND
(p. 138 at
the (5) Andante to p. 173: continued in a
dramatic Coda up till )
runs to around thirty pages of the vocal score
and is, therefore, the longest and most highly
developed single scene in the entire opera.
The story itself has sufficient incidents
and human interest to serve as basis for an
analysis of the music of Šiškovís story will
be found in Appendix 1.
a casual study of this, it should be clear
that Janáček employs as highly a complex system
of leitmotif as any composer has attempted
since the death of Wagner.
All the leading
characters in the drama have associated motifs,
devised to give truthful musical expression
to their individual characteristics: the Akulka
motif, for example, stands out from all others
by its tenderness, serenity and simple-heartedness.
perhaps, that Janáček could have more forcefully,
realistically and dramatically revealed the
double identity of Filka Morozov by declaiming,
for instance, an augmented version of the
swaggering Filka motif (see vocal score p.
141 at the con moto) at the crucial moment,
for this theme dominates the first part of
the monologue for ten pages and is associated
with Filka in the minds of perceptive members
of the audience.
with the analysis of Act III, it is a relief,
after the emotional rhapsodies and complexities
of the Šiškov monologue, to listen to the
light texture-mainly in polka and waltz rhythms-of
the orchestral interlude separating the two
main scenes of this act.
The main theme
is a jerky folk-song-like polka strain orchestrated
in musical-box colours; a piquant touch is
achieved by immediately repeating it in waltz
time: this delightful swaying between duple
and triple rhythms occurs three times, during
which we hear bass and tenor convicts, behind
scene echoing their characteristic "Hou!
break into the care-free atmosphere, reminding
us perhaps that, however momentarily happy
the convicts may be in the enjoyment of their
physical work, they are still prisoners-or
could this be a preliminary call to Freedom?
Anyway, the five-bar contrasting section is
tinged with heaviness.
theme dressed out in full orchestral colours
and now punctuated a few times by trumpet
notes is developed at some length after which
the lighter first part of the interlude is
repeated and a short Coda added. This repeat
was added by the editors for practical reasons-Janáčekís
interlude was too short to allow the necessary
change of scenery.
enters to this somewhat unctuous and mock-solemn
curves of his "apology "are particularly
tune of the interlude (last bar p. 183) cuts
in for a moment and again we hear the whirling
"Hou! Hou!" of the convicts who are watching
this incredible scene with interest and amazement.
for the continuation of the Commandantís speech
is in two threads; the lower voice, on
horns and strings, can be read as an unexpected
jaunty derivative of the Destiny motif (unless
the resemblance is purely accidental) while,
above it-on oboes-is a development of the
first two notes of the convictsí folk-song
(see ) expanding to the tune itself at
the second last bar on p. 184 as the convicts
now openly nudge one another at the ridiculous
and unbecoming conduct of their Major. The
two themes continue in combination (pp. 185-6).
The little fanfare theme from the middle of
the orchestral interlude is added to the texture
(top of p. 186). When the Major goes to the
length of actually embracing Petrovič the
orchestra chuckles sardonically: when he questions
Petrovič about his dreams and the latter replies
that he was dreaming of his mother last night,
a new descending arpeggio figure appears with
solo violin and flutes weaving continuous
triplets around it (see + 6 et seq.).
The mood of
the scene and the music has changed. There
is, however, no change of tempo and the jerky
little folk fragment continues to intervene
although in gentler tones (p.187, bars 5 and
6). After Petrovič is handed his discharge
the music rises quickly to a pitch of ecstasy.
At  the
Destiny motif appears in friendlier tones
and soon we begin to relax after two hours
of almost unbearable tension as the triumphant
Hymn-to-Freedom theme reappears (No. 30).
We hear it when the caged eagle soars to freedom-with
high piccolo flutterings (p. 190 to )-and
again, more subdued and intimate-horn solo-as
the two friends bid farewell to one another
, finally ringing out with exalted triumph
as Petrovič leaves the prison and the convicts
sing of Liberty and Freedom on which note
the opera closes.
I, for one,
cannot find fault with this extremely effective
edited ending. It begins at the third bar
of p. 195 repeating the previous two bars,
followed by the first six bars in  and
a coda of nine bars, where the Freedom and
Destiny motifs are fused perfectly together.
original ending was printed in the Musical
Times of August 1956, pp. 408-10, and can
also be found on p. 374 of Vogelís book. It
repeats from the tempo primo on p. 179 to
the con moto at the bottom staves of p. 180:
that is, the middle development section of
the orchestral interlude, now heavily orchestrated
and ending fortissimo.
is the jolly polka-waltz tune of the convicts,
so that there is no trace in Janáčekís original
finale of any return to tragedy or despair.
wrote to Mrs. Kamila Stosslova on 4 January,
1928 that The House of the Dead was finished,
some Janáček scholars consider that 8 June
is probably nearer the date, although, as
we have seen, the final revision was never
completed by the composer.
It is thought
that Janáček first met the 23-year-old beautiful
wife of David Stossel in Hukvaldy in 1915,
when he became immediately attracted to her.
Vogel considers the introduction took place
two years later in Luhačovice while the families
were on holiday. Janáček himself, however,
in the musical story of their love, sets the
first movement of his Love Letters quartet
"in Hukvaldy-my first impressions when
I saw you for the first time".
course of his thirteen yearsí friendship with
this lady, a friendship which grew in intimacy
as the years passed, he wrote nearly 600 letters
to her and on his own confession she was the
inspiration for many of his most mature works.
"I know a most wonderful lady",
he tells Professor Knop. "I have her
perpetually in my mind. My Kátja (Kabanová)
grows in her, in Kamila!": later he writes
to Kamila-"You are, for me, the poor
Elian Makropulos!": again "You were the
one I thought of when writing this work"
(The Diary of One Who Vanished): and the crowning
tribute to his beloved was the second string
quartet, Love Letters, in which he pours out
his passion, his tenderness, his love for
Kamila. He began writing this, his last instrumental
masterpiece, in January 1928, that is, in
the last year of his life.
his wife had mostly lived apart for many years:
she was no sweet, sympathetic, understanding
wife for this tremendously vital, headstrong
and eccentric genius. The personal attributes
of our tumultuous hero will be discussed later:
suffice now to state that however proud and
incorruptible he was as a great musical personality,
however much of an original Diogenes among
musicians, however much he was and is now
to an even greater extent the creator of tempestuously
new and strong musical works, by everyoneís
account, he was, in his personal relationships,
an exceedingly difficult man. One sympathizes
with Madame Janackova, as one sympathizes
with the first wife of Debussy in rather similar
circumstances, but rejoices in the fact that
his later years were made radiantly happy
relationship with Kamila has involved biographers
in some speculation: Janáček once told his
great admirer and propagandist, Max Brod,
that their relationship was "a purely
spiritual one". Max Brod, refusing to
have the wool pulled over his eyes, had this
dry comment to make: "Friendship with
a woman is not an empty phrase, it is simply
an inaccurate description leaving out what
is most important and stressing a side-issue."
leading up to the death of Janáček created
some scandal and, for a time, an attempt was
made to stifle the truth. Kamilaís husband
practically handed over his wife, accompanied
by their young son, to Janáček, who converted
an attic in his house at Hukvaldy to accommodate
his beloved. The 11-year-old boy strayed away
from the adults when they were walking to
Babi hill: the 74-year-old composer searched
uphill and downhill looking for the lost child,
sitting down in an overheated condition with
a strong wind blowing. As a result of this
he caught a chill which was diagnosed first
as "flu" with laryngitis and mastoid-later
turning into pneumonia. A week later he was
of wife and mistress, the quarrel of the rival
undertakers, the smuggling of his body into
Brno, the lying in state in the foyer of the
Brno Theatre opposite his own bust is a macabre
story worthy of the pen of a Hoffmann.
after his death The House of the Dead was
performed in Brno before the gathering of
distinguished musicians, many of whom had
come from far afield to pay tribute to this
great Czech composer. Other performances soon
followed in Prague, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Zurich
and elsewhere. The woman who had meant so
much to Janáček, to whom he had poured out
his heart, who had been the inspiration behind
many masterpieces, to whom he had written
a propos The House of the Dead- "I am hurrying
with the new opera like a baker throwing buns
into the oven", herself died of cancer seven
years after the man who had loved her so much.
1 Part2 Part3