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You are here: Home About us Cultural events Exhibitions Exhibit of the Month - November 2023

Exhibit of the Month - November 2023

November 15 - December 13, 2023 Ante-room to the General reading Room (gate A), open Monday to Saturday 9 am - 7 pm (see opening hours of the NL)
Admission 20 CZK (free for the NL readers)

Ladislav Vycpálek: Cantata of the Last Things of Man for Soloist, Chorus and Orchestra on the Words of Two Moravian Folk Songs, Op. 16
First printed edition of the orchestral score: copyright 1926 Hudební Matice Praha (engraved and printed by Průmyslová tiskárna v Praze in January 1927) and simultaneously the performance score of the Paris presentation in 1930.
NL Prague, 59 A 8908

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Music Department (1923-2023), the National Library of the CR displays a print of an important work written by its founder, composer Ladislav Vycpálek (1882–1969).

The creation of the Cantata of the Last Things of Man almost coincides with the origin of the Music Department. Until the first performance of the Cantata in December 1922, Ladislav Vycpálek was mainly known as a composer of choruses and chamber vocal pieces. At this occasion he presented himself to the audience as a mature master of the monumental form after more than a two-year break. In 1925, the Cantata was performed as part of the International Festival of Contemporary Music, held that year in Prague. Other performances followed in Mainz, Liverpool, Magdeburg, Ljubljana, Paris, London, Belgrade, Rotterdam … The Cantata is still the most played among Vycpálek´s cantatas and forms the backbone of Czech cantata production, along with Vycpalek’s other works, like Blessed is this Man (1933) and Czech Requiem (1940).

For the performance of the Cantata in Paris in February 1930 the ambition was to present it in the French translation – the literal translation, already included in the introductery notes of previous editions, was not sufficient for this purpose (this French literal translation was made by Stanislav Hanuš). It required a poetic translation integrated into the order of the musical composition. The first printed edition of the orchestral score of the Cantata was in Czech and German, i. e. with Czech and German underlining of the vocal parts, similarly to its piano version published as early as 1922. Vycpálek, who did not believe the Cantata would have any success on stages abroad, had to be persuaded for the bilingual edition. The second edition of the piano version from 1930 is both in Czech and English. At that moment, Miloš Šafránek, the cultural attache in Paris, did a good job. He successfully approached Frech translator Daniel Muller, with whom he had previously collaborated on a similar matter (for the first time in 1928, when translating The Bartered Bride by B. Smetana for its first performance in Paris on the occasion of the celebration of the independent state of Czechs and Slovaks).

The exhibited first printed edition of the orchestral score, NL Prague, 59 A 8909, is really unique. Not only is it the copy from which French conductor Albert Wolff rehearsed Vycpálek´s Cantata with the orchestra and conducted both performances on February 15 and 16, 1930, but also it is the only actual copy known to us that contains Muller´s French translation of the vocal parts, written in the score probably in his own hand. Displayed is also a preserved letter regarding the translation from Daniel Muller addressed to Ladislav Vycpálek, NL Prague, 59 L 160, as well as the transcript of Vycpálek´s autograph score, from which Jaromír Herle rehearsed the Cantata and presented it at its first performance in Prague on December 9, 1922, NL Prague, 59 R 521.

1/ Title page of the first printed edition of the score (NL Prague, 59 A 8908)
2/ Letter from Daniel Muller to Ladislav Vycpálek (NL Prague, 59 L 160)
3/ Page 21 (fol. 11r) of a copy of the autograph score (NL Prague, R 521)

Nov 13, 2023
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