Janáček composed Mládí in 1924, around the time of his 70th birthday, and during the interval between two operas that have become repertoire staples: The Cunning Little Vixen and The Makropulos Affair. Mládí (Youth) looked back at the composer’s own childhood, with folk-like tunes and lighthearted melodies rendered in the breezy tones of a wind sextet. In his operas, Janáček mastered the technique of shaping his vocal lines to the natural contours of the spoken word; he utilized the same principle in this instrumental work, shaping the main theme to match the tone of the phrase, “Mládí, zlaté mládí!” or, “Youth, golden youth!” This figure reappears throughout the suite, imparting a playful, almost teasing tone. The second movement, in an Andante sostenuto tempo, is the most reserved, with its modal melody first intoned by the bassoon alone. The third movement borrows a piccolo themes from a short work Janáček composed earlier in 1924, “March of the Blue Boys,” a reference to the blue uniforms he wore along with other young choristers. The finale spins out new possibilities from the “Youth, golden youth” gesture while requiring the winds to execute virtuosic, rapid-fire tonguing.
Aaron Grad ©2014