Smolka: Agnus Dei
for double choir
World première Stuttgart on July 14, 2012, by SWR-Vokalensemble Stuttgart and "Kammerchor des Kopernikus-Gymnasiums" Wasseralfingen, cond. Marcus Creed
In this piece, there are three quotations of Bohuslav Martinů (1892-1959), from his song book Nový Špalíček (New Chap-Book, 1942). Twice, in the beginning and by the end, there are quoted short chord successions from the piano part of Martinů’s songs, here sung on words “Agnus Dei”. In a centre of the piece, there is quoted a fragment of melody of Martinů’s song Zvědavé dievča (Wondering Maiden) with it’s original words. It should be sung, if possible, in the language of expected audience.
The piece is a little requiem for my father. The quotations are from songs, which my father used to sing with me and my sister in times, when I have had soprano voice. My father PhDr. Jaroslav Smolka (1933-2011) was a leading Czech musicologist, author of books Czech Cantata and Oratorium, Fuga in Czech Music, Smetana´s Orchestra Music, Smetana´s Vocal Music, monography of Jan Dismas Zelenka and many others. He was a legendary teacher of Music History at Prague Music Academy, critic, recording producer, composer; for almost 50 years he was an important and highly respected personality of Prague musical life.
My father devoted a lot of time and energy to musical education and activities of my sister and me, using often quite original methods such as teaching of intervals and counterpoint through Bartók’s Microcosmos, ear training filling all imaginable moments of everyday life, or lessons of harmony analysis starting with Overture to Tristan and Musorgsky’s Catacombs. The Martinu song Wondering Maiden was his solo number in our home vocal productions, which he used to sing with amazing devotion while his huge voice was audible in several neighboring streets.
My Agnus Dei is closely bound to all this history, e.g. by using canon and preferring beauty of dissonant seconds like Bartok or quoting Martinu and his refined neoclassical harmony. Father would be probably a bit critical about the minimalistic monotony of the main body of the piece. Nevertheless, firstly he would improvise a short lecture of history of Agnus Dei in Requiem in Czech Music, naming by heart many dates and all examples of changes of order of the traditional text by composers. Examples would be sung, probably.