Vítĕzslava Kaprálová: Elegy
Vítĕzslava Kaprálová (1915-1940) was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, to musical parents. By age 9, Kaprálová was composing her own music after learning with her parents at home. In 1930, Kaprálová was offered a place to study at Brno Conservatory, where she studied composition, choral and orchestral conducting and piano. Whilst there she composed over 15 works for a range of soloists and ensembles. During her years at the Conservatory, Kaprálová became close with Bohuslav Martinů, who was a family friend at the time. It was during these years that Kaprálová heard a range of different music, experienced being reviewed for her own music and also tried her hand at conducting. For her graduating piece, Kaprálová conducted the Brno Conservatory Orchestra as she premiered her Piano Concerto in D. From there she enrolled at the Prague Conservatory to further her studies.
Kaprálová’s untimely death at age 25 cut short this talented composer’s upwards trajectory that she was riding. She left behind a number of influential works, lots of which are still performed today. Growing up, Kaprálová worried that she was entering a male-dominated profession, but by the time of her death, Kaprálová had achieved a unique voice amongst her male contemporaries.
Elegy was composed in 1939, just one year before Kaprálová’s death. It is composed for solo violin and piano and has made a lasting impression on violinists since its conception. The lamenting opening from the solo violin sets the sombre scene for when the piano enters a few bars later. Elegy plays on traditional Czech folk tunes, as well as tugging at the heartstrings through Kaprálová’s rich textures and use of the violin’s range. The relationship between the two instruments is completely complementary, and as the dynamic grows, the two instruments flourish together.
Kaprálová’s exploration of the violin’s range is one of the highlights of the work, with death- defying high notes and rich lower range notes offering the full Kaprálová experience in one piece of music. After a short reprise of the opening violin statement, Elegy concludes quietly as the two instruments fade away into silence.
Ⓒ Alex Burns