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Leoš Janáček: Sinfonietta

(Arranger: Erwin Stein)

  • for orchestra
  • reduced version
  • 3 3 3 2 - 4 4 3 1 - timp, perc(2), hp, str
  • Duration: 25’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    3rd flute (+picc)
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    cor anglais
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    bass clarinet in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in C (+tpt(F))
    2nd trumpet in C (+tpt(F))
    3rd trumpet in C (+tpt(F))
    4th trumpet in C
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    tubular bells
    violin I
    violin II
  • Composer: Leoš Janáček
  • Arranger: Erwin Stein

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Work introduction

The Sinfonietta, written in 1925, consists of five movements of which each is scored for a different combination of orchestral instruments.

The first movement, for brass instruments and timpani only, elaborates one single theme. This is worked out in several smaller sections first in duple time, later – in a sort of Middle section – in Waltz time, and at the close, in enlarged form, again in duple time over an organ point of fifths.

The Andante which follows alternately employs two themes: a sustained melody supported by wind instruments and later by strings; and a dance motive in a graceful 2/4 time. The latter appears first, after a short Introduction, and the second melodic theme is worked out later. The Dance theme, in various transformations, is worked up to a “maestoso” passage in which the accompanying motive of the Dance theme assumes the character of an independent figure, over sustained chords. After a climax is reached, the Dance portion of the beginning recurs, varied and with accompanying figures. The movement terminates in this mood.

The third movement opens in moderate tempo, developing a melodic motive with a recurring accompanying chord-figure. These chords supply the material for the first Intermediate section, in quicker tempo; this develops, after a short repetition of the opening portion, into a lively, dance-like section, in which the opening motive, with a new accompaniment and by means of counter-subjects, assumes a merry character. The play of the figures becomes increasingly lively, the motive structure seems to disintegrate – until runs bring an abrupt return to the tempo and mood of the opening potion. The movement dies away with the motive and with portions of the figurations from the first section.

The fourth movement builds solely upon one, Polka-like motive given out first by the trumpet alone, with counter­subjects and accompanying chords gradually building up. A chain of trills in the strings passes the leading motive to the horn, later it is taken up by the clarinet, again by muted horns and by the flute; the strings then dissolve the motive into its components, the trumpet takes possession of it, in decreasing dynamic gradation, and ultimately plays it alone, muted and dying away. A short motivic Development in which elements of the theme recur alternately in faster and slower tempo, leads to an increasingly slow tempo, the motive being taken over by oboe, trumpet and partly by the clarinet. An abrupt Stretto leads to a forceful close.

The Final opens with a characteristic motive on the flutes, which is accompanied by figures in the strings, and immediately worked out. It is taken up, in somewhat different character, by the clarinet and oboe, later by the flute. A fast Intermediate section accompanied by staccato chords on the strings and in which figures on the woodwinds play an important role, leads to a broad, stately section, after which the strings and woodwinds also taken possession of the opening theme. The Intermediate section, with chord figure work, brings a great climax and leads to a repetition of the first movement; this recurs in literal quotation, except that the brasses are reinforced and intensified by trill chains of the strings and woodwinds. These trills assume, in the woodwinds, motivic significance and take part in the pompous, broadly solemn closing portion.

Dr. A. P.

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