Leoš Janáček: Taras Bulba

Leoš Janáček Taras Bulba
Taras Bulba

Leoš Janáček: Taras Bulba

Year of composition:
critical New Edition by Jirí Zahrádka
Scored for:
for orchestra
Leoš Janáček
3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc, hp, org, str
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais
clarinet in Eb
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in F
2nd trumpet in F
3rd trumpet in F
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
violin I
violin II
double bass
More Less

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

The Taras Bulba rhapsody, one of the most remarkable orchestral compositions of the 1910s, is a proof of Janá?ek’s admiration of Russian literature and culture. In 1905, he read the original Russian version of Gogol’s novel in the Russian Club in Brno. At the very beginning of the First World War, he came back to this subject when he began composing the “Slavonic Rhapsody” Taras Bulba in January 1915. He finished it by the beginning of July and gave it to Vojt?ch Šev?ík, a copyist, for transcription. Nevertheless, as he had stopped working on the rhapsody, he did not try to perform it and even the title of the composition was kept in secret. This was due to a very tense political situation in the Austrian monarchy where expressions of sympathy for antagonistic Russia were sanctioned. Janá?ek was forced to deal with trouble associated with a prohibition on Russian Club's activities and he became increasingly concerned about the arrests of people around him. He did not come back to his work until the Viennese première of his opera Její Pastorky?a (“Her Stepdaughter”) at the Vienna Court Opera in 1918. This was when he fundamentally revised the composition and had the reworked pieces transcribed by Václav Sedlá?ek.

The première took place on October 9, 1921 in Brno, with the musical supervision and direction by conductor František Neumann, who completed the detailed dynamics and made some changes. Another transcription, again by Vojt?ch Šev?ík, was made at this stage. Another performance took place on January 21, 1924, again in Brno, and again under František Neumann's direction of the original 1917 transcription of the score.  Prague's performance with Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Václav Talich on November 9, 1924 followed. Talich was already conducting from the new 1922 transcription and he made some changes in the score, approved by the composer present.


Hudební Matice, a Czech music publishing house, expressed their interest in the composition. First, in 1925, an arrangement for piano for four hands by B?etislav Bakala was published (based on the score from 1922). However, Hudební Matice did not seem to be planning on printing the score and working materials. They still only offered handwritten working materials with inscribed changes from each performance, which were considerably confusing and did not correspond to the 1917 transcription of the score. This was why productions of the composition in London, Paris and Zagreb in 1926 and 1927 were withdrawn. After that, Janá?ek decided to inform Hudební Matice that he was taking his Taras Bulba from them. This threat made the publisher take the steps to quickly publish the work. Before that happened, however, Janá?ek revised his composition quite distinctly in June 1927. The score was published in December 1927.


This orchestral edition is based on a comparison of all the surviving relevant sources and a determination of the work's form that is as close as possible to the composer's intent. The 1918 authorized transcription by Vojt?ch Šev?ík and Václav Sedlá?ek, from which František Neumann conducted the Brno première and to which Janá?ek recorded his extensive revision in 1927, was determined as a primary source. Another transcription by Šev?ík in 1922, from which Václav Talich conducted the Prague première, represents another source for this edition, together with the first authorized printed edition and the work's autograph as well as the corrections made by the composer. 


(Ji?í Zahrádka)



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Next performances

29 Nov

Taras Bulba

Concert Hall, Helsinki (FI)

World première

Philharmonie, Paris (FR)
Orchestre de Paris
Jakub Hrusa

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