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The creative path of Ján Cikker

Sobakina Ol'ga Valeryevna

Doctor of Art History

senior research assistant of the Department of Art of the Central Europian countries at State Institute of Art Studies in Moscow.

141201, Russia, Moskovskaya oblast', g. Pushkino, ul. Oktyabrskaya, 59 kv. 2

olas2005@mail.ru
Другие публикации этого автора
 

 

DOI:

10.7256/2453-613X.2016.1.18739

Review date:

11-04-2016


Publish date:

11-04-2016


Abstract: The subject of this research is the work of Ján Cikker (1911-1989), which remains virtually unknown in Russia, despite the fact that this composer is rightly acknowledged alongside Eugen Suchoňto be the founder of the modern composition school; it is no coincidence that out of his class graduated almost all notable composers of Slovakia. His work is marked by a special interest to opera, which remains a fairly rare phenomenon for the music of the XX century. Moreover, as his task he set the creation of such musical language that would combine modern forms with the national material. The author carefully examines the stages of life and formation of the creative principles of one of the renowned composers of the XX century. The main conclusions of the research consist in the fact that the creative style of Ján Cikker is distinguished by the clarity of idea, bright imagery, and inclination towards lyricism. The main theme of his work is the theme of human personality, developed in many works of various genres. The composer embodied the national theme and realized the national folklore on the highest level of composing mastery, but a special place for the Slovak culture is held by his operas.


Keywords: Václav Talich, piano art, symphonic poems, Mussorgsky, opera, XX century, Slovak music, Ilja Zeljenka, Ján Cikker, Juro Jánošík

In the XX century Slovak composition school attained the well-deserved recognition thanks to the works of Eugen Suchoň , Ján Cikker, and Alexander Moyzes. The distinctive feature of their work became the demonstration of neo-folklore aesthetics, as well as the search for a way to advance the national modern style within the framework of avant-garde techniques of the XX century. As noted by Eugen Suchoň in one of the interviews, “…not to be an epigone and organically incorporate modern means into our lexicon – this was the primary goal for Slovak composers of my generation. This is why from the very beginning we looked simultaneously for ways to create national music and methods of introduction of it into the context of European art” [3, p. 119]. Eugen Suchoňmade a sizeable contribution not only into composing, but also academic works including “Chords from the Triad to the Twelve-tone Chord” (Bratislava, 1979).Just as important is the work of Ján Cikker, which alongside the works of Eugen Suchoň and Ilja Zeljenka, belongs to the Slovak musical classics of the XX century.

The creative core of Ján Cikker can be characterized by his own words: “The search of their own national language is an intrinsic trait of every national artist. National construct of musical thinking lives as the language which the person speaks and thinks.I do not recognize music that is neutral in its national regard” [2, p. 133]. National theme gained a rich, artistically convincing and multifaceted embodiment in the work of Cikker. But there are two aspects of this theme that are dominant – the generalized idea of landscape in the orchestra compositions, and syuzhets of national history and Slovak epos in the operas and vocal-choral oeuvres. Another theme of Cikker’s work is the ethnic issues of modernity, embodied in the syuzhets of classical literature. The ideas of improving personality, moral awakening, to which a person comes by overcoming internal conflicts, gained advancement in the operas Resurrection (by Leo Tolstoy), The Game of Love and Death (by Romain Rolland), Coriolanus (by William Shakespeare), The Verdict (by Heinrich Von Kleist). Cikker’s opera work is distinguished by the genre diversity and broad amplitude of expression – from drama to comedy, original interpretation of the genre, and masterful musical embodiment. Cikker’s composing style is characteristic in the synthesis of his contemporary composing techniques, but his idealistic-aesthetic foundation always remained the realization of national material expressed in melodic and rhythmic-harmonic structure. Thanks to this aspect, the specific communicativeness of his music and its inherent humanistic pathos are also evident.

Ján Cikker was born on July 29 of 1911 in Banská Bystrica. His first vivid musical experiences were linked to the life of his hometown: there was an amateur orchestra, and students created spectacles and even operas.Cikker himself performed in a duet with a mother who was teaching his son how to play a piano from an early age.

The composer reminisced that namely his mother introduced him to the works of Bartók, Kodály, and Janáček, which she heard some time back while studying in Budapest. Cikker’s successes in playing the piano were very noticeable, but in his student years he also began composing. In 1930, when he came to Prague conservatory for exams, in addition to piano compositions his composing portfolio already had the Symphony in C minor and Quartet .The most vivid event of his student years became the classes with Jaroslav Křička, who was interested not only in French impressionism, but also music of Russian composers. Křička was well acquainted with Russian literature, since he taught music theory in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk) and created an orchestra there. In Prague, Křička colleagues were Vítězslav Novák, Josef Suk, and Václav Talich; he was promoting traditions of the Czech school, but gave special attention to the mastery of orchestration. An undeniable influence on his pedagogy came from the style of Rimsky-Korsakov with his richness of colors, discipline, and functionality. In Křička’s class Cikker wrote Christmas Cantata, Fugues for wind quartet, String Quartet, Piano Sonata, and Suite for harp and viola .

Cikker’s last composition in Křička’s class was the Symphonic Prologue , which received high grade from Vítězslav Novák, who offered Cikker to continue studying in his class and as a test write piano variations. Theme with Variations, for piano, Op. 14/1 (1935) demonstrated maturity of his thinking, creative innovativeness and possession of a virtuoso piano style. The theme for which the eleven variations were written carries a character of a folk ballade; its harmonious progression testifies to composer’s imagination. Critics later noted: “After some time it can be claimed that these manifestations of Slovak melodicism from Cikker, Alexander Moyzes, Dezider Kardoš, and other Slovak composers were so bright by that time, that they became the foundation for the Slovak folk music” [5, p. 34]. In 1936, the orchestra of Czech Philharmonic under the management of Pavel Dědeček (from whom Cikker learned his conducting art) performed Capriccio Op. 14/3. Cikker attracted Novák not only by his talent, but also by the similarity in interests: they both climbed mountains, where they listened to folk songs and gazed upon unique landscapes. Later, Cikker noted that Novák’s achievements in development of Slovak music are extraordinarily significant, since he brought up the older generation of composers and pointed the way to further refinement of the mastery. As noted by L. Polyakova – a researcher of the work of Slovak composers, “in 1980’s, Novák was one of the first Czech composers who became interested in Slovak folklore, and started using the materials from Slovak melodies in his works. Living behind a giant footprint in Czech music, namely as a pedagogue and professor who taught many composers, Novák truly stood at the cradle of Slovak music and helped it reach professional heights: it was from his classes that Moyzes graduated in 1930, and Suchoň in 1933 – the two, who along with Cikker currently comprise (in 1980 – O. S. ) the leading creative group of Slovak composers. Thus, being the student of Antonín Dvořák, Novák as a composer and a pedagogue realized the direct connection between the young Slovak professional school and the Czech musical classics” [1, p. 184-185].

After graduating the Prague conservatory Cikker began studying modern compositional techniques, referring to the works of Alban Berg, Alois Hába, Segei Prokofiev, and Dmitri Shostakovich. He was principally interested in contemporary opera, especially since in 1935 Bratislava hosted the Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Shostakovich, Berg’s Wozzeck , and Hába’s Mother in Prague. But the radical rejuvenation of composing means did not attract Cikker; he believed that musical language should not lose communicability. In 1936 and 1937 Cikker received a stipend for studying in the Higher School of Musical Arts in Vienna under conducting Professor Felix Weingartner. He then returned home to Bratislava, served in the military, and in 1939 was invited to teach in the Academy of Music and Drama in Bratislava (which was established in 1927, and in 1941 was changed to the State Conservatory). There he was surrounded by a completely different atmosphere. Due to the political events in 1938, Slovak culturebegan expressing strive for national identity. Cikker became closer with Alexander Moyzes, Andrej Očenáś, Ladislav Holoubek, and started showing interest in the work of Eugen Suchoň.

Cikker’s oeuvres of the late 1930’s testify to his remarkable composing abilities. On April 26, 1940 an orchestra of Bratislava radio under Kornel Schimpl performed the Spring Symphony Op. 15, written back in 1937.This work combined classical dramaturgy with use of modern stylistics, and became Cikker’s first creative height. Compositions of the 1930’s (including the Sinfonietta Op. 16/1 , Second and Third String Quartets , and piano compositions) expressed optimism of the youth, and joy in perception of life; the imagery in his later works expandedsignificantly. The composer wrote fast (his colleagues noted that he often left the classroom to write down the emerging thoughts), but the spontaneousness of the composing process harmonized with rational thinking.Being within the framework of the dominating along with the neo-classicism of neo-folklore trends, Cikker dedicated most attention to studying Slovak folklore, which gave him a fresh impulse within the intonational sphere, compositional structure, and figurative construct. As noted by L. Polyakova, “for Cikker, as for his older contemporaries Eugen Suchoň and Alexander Moyzes, the importance lied not in the compilation, but rather an individual generalization of material on the level of European professional thinking of the mid XX century” [1, p. 183].

Among the most known works of the war years – trilogy of poems On Life , Slovak Suite Op. 22, Cantus Filiorum Op. 17 Cantata for bass, mixed choir and orchestra on the poem by Vladimír Reisel , written as a sign of protest against Polish occupation.The premiere of the cantata took place in Bratislava on March 13 of 1941 and became a creative paradox, since the anti-war oeuvre, which received great response from the public, was played in the presence of fascist authorities. The dynamic musical dramaturgy of the cantata is based on the principle of contrast; rich texture is filled with counterpoints or polyphonic fragments;harmonic sphere differs by the use of complex fourth-fifth harmonies with expanded tonality. The choir part is distinguished by interesting solutions, in which the composer uses original counterpoints of singing and speech (parlando). Among the chamber works, the one that stands out is the vocal triptych O Mamičke (About Mother) Op. 18 (1940), which also contains the theme of war and death. Same as in the cantata, in the triptych Cikker uses a complex alternating harmony, but the special colorfulness to this cycle comes from the independently developing vocal part, rich with speech nuances.

In the works of the early 1940’s, for the first time Cikker raises the issue of the theme of life and death; they become the borderline between the cheerful optimism of the early compositions and the philosophical problematics of the work of 1950’s, related to development of another key theme in Cikker’s work – the theme of establishment of identity. Throughout the 1940’s the composer continued to use folklore motifs in his oeuvres. Same is Moyzes, he wrote choral overtures, often representing the adaptations of the folklore examples, and wrote his own compositions in an analogous style. Among them can be mentioned the choral Christmas Carols (the material for them was selected from the old compilation of songs in Orava dialect), and the ballade In the Mountains (1940). Cikker put in a lot of work with various choral collectives, including in radio, and always took into consideration the performing abilities in writing various compositions. He never composed “unperformable” works, and believed that choral music must be oriented towards the capabilities of not just professional collectives. Let us mention that during these years, in addition to teaching Cikker also conducted the orchestra of the Slovak Philharmonic.

Among the works from the war years there are few significant orchestral compositions. The poem Summer Op. 19 (1941) became the first part of the symphonic trilogy On Life . It is full of romance, associated with the images of nature and sustained in impressionistic stylistics, reminiscent of the Afternoon of a Faun by Claude Debussy (this parallel is highlighted by the use of solo flute in the intro).The poem is distinguished by the dynamics of the intonational development, in the process of which, the presented theme in the introduction is transformed into a number of new themes. The stylistics of the poem is similar to Spring Symphony , butits figurative construct is more dramatic and conflicting. The form of the poem is also interesting; it combines features of the cyclical structure with rondo, as well as the harmony of impressionistic type with the use of thick colorful harmonies and polytonal combinations. The first performance of the poem Summer became the broadcast on the Bratislava radios on November 28 of 1941; the second version aired at the concert in the Moyzes Hall in March of 1943. The premiere of the second poem in the trilogy – Soldier and Mother (another version of the title – Soldier and Battle ) Op. 21 for narrator and symphonic orchestra – took place in 1941, and received great resonance in Slovakia. In it, the composer used a text from the poem by Andrej Žarnov (born František Šubík), which he heard at an evening of Slovak poetry. Cikker believed that an artist cannot ignore the events of their time: in this poem he expressed his war experiences – burnt down villages and human suffering that he saw in Ukraine during the compulsory military service.In this overture the composer perfects the technique of the recitative and dramaturgy, based on the contrasting comparison of the two spheres. The tragic sphere, which reaches the apogee at the end of the poem, finds expression in the use of chromatics and impulsiveness of the rhythmic development. The lyrical sphere continues the line of the thematic development of the preceding poem –Summer , which unites the poems into a single cycle.

The other symphonic overtures carry a completely different character. The neo-classical principle of the wedding concerto grosso in combination with folk dancing penetrates the Concertino Op. 20 (1942) for piano and orchestra . The virtuoso character of the piano part is “complemented” by the competition with other orchestra instruments, but at the same time, the entire composition is penetrated by bright lyrical moods. In 1946Concertino was performed in London, and Slovak critics held it as a composition of a mature master. The folklore theme defined the idea of the orchestral Slovak Suite Op. 22, the composition of which is built on the “presentation” of five folk songs (On the Green Field; My Dear, Where Are You; Gray Eyes, Pale Face; When Heart Hurts; Jan, Jan, You Are a Bandit). In this overture Cikker used forms of work with folklore that were new to him – stylization and quoting; in addition to that, he applied the methods of play on string instruments that are typical to folklore, textural forms (including stylization of play of a string “capella”) and ornamentation. The technique of counterpoints and use of rare instruments uniquely fused with the folklore stylistics, which give the suite a contemporary charm. The premiere of Slovak Suite on April 14 of 1944 was conducted by the Yugoslavian conductor Krešimir Baranović, who later performed the overture in Belgrade.

June marked the beginning of the bombardment of Bratislava by the British-American airforces – the capital was abandoned by all who could flee. Once again Cikker found himself in his hometown of Banská Bystrica, where the rebel movement started, later turning into the Slovak national uprising. Joining forces, the intelligentsia broadcasted on the formed local radio, for which the composer wrote a number of patriotic songs that later gained popularity (as for example, the March of the Rebels , written in October of 1944). After the rebels moved to the mountains, life became even more worrisome. Threatened by search and arrest, with the help of his friends Cikker returned to the capital. He participated in the efforts of the Red Cross during the liberation of Bratislava, and organized concerts for the wounded with the soloists of the Slovak National Opera and the conductor Ladislav Holoubek. The first post-war premiere was the performance of the Tchaikovsky opera Eugene Onegin , organized by Cikker.

The dramatic events related to liberation of Slovakia gave the composer the impulse to use lyrical-romantic moods in his works.Over the period of two weeks, he writes in the score one of his brightest oeuvres – the orchestral Idyll Op. 23, ordered for a concert program and sustained in the genre of a ballet divertissement. It reveals two figurative spheres, typical for Cikker’s work – lyrical musical “landscape” and dance. In the Fall of 1944, despite the events of those months Cikker began to compose the last part of his poem trilogy – the symphonic poem Morning Op. 24. It was completed only by 1946. As the concept of the poem emerged, Cikker noted: “In the rondo-sonata form I wanted to relate the last moments of the war, and the nearing liberation by the Soviet army. Thus, in the music there are the hints of Russian folk melody…” [4, p. 96]. The musical fabric of the poem is filled with chromatics, sharp consonances, and contrasts of dynamic counterpoints. The poem echoes the dramaturgy of the preceding parts – it also starts with the reminiscence of the war theme from the second poem, which develops in comparison with the Russian lyrical theme, gradually moving to the foreground and completing the entire cycle with an enlightened pianissimo. The symphonic triptych demonstrated the maturity of Cikker’s style, possession of a conflict symphonic dramaturgy, and contoured the wide circle of composer’s creative interests.

After the war, there was an active revival of cultural life. Cikker and Moyzes reestablished connections with Czech composers, as well as with a well-known publisher Mojmir Urbánek. From the Fall of 1945 to 1948, Cikker along with conductor Krešimir Baranović worked as the creative director (or more precisely – “dramaturge”) of the opera troupe at the Slovak National Theatre. His position in the Czech and German theatres corresponded with the position of the head of the literary part, but in all actuality Cikker was a creative director of the opera troupe; his responsibilities also included writing of the articles and opera programs. The first premiere was Bedřich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride , then Jenůfa (“Her Stepdaughter”)by Leoš Janáček, Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky (the opera that was especially appreciated by Cikker), and other oeuvres from the Russian and Czech opera classics. For Cikker,Boris Godunov forever remained the summit that defined the meaning of opera: “Until now, not a single Russian composer has penetrated the spirit of his people to such depth, and did not absorb all of their problems with such simplicity and astonishing strength, as well aswith the same courage and freedom in expression as did Mussorgsky in this opera” [4, p. 108-109].Cikker studied and advocated the work of Mussorgsky and wrote about him extensively.In the work of the Slovak national theatre, an interesting moment was the turn towards the popular symphonic works of Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schumann, Gershwin, Ravel, and Stravinsky, which were used as the music for the ballets. The intense work in the theatre did not hinder Cikker’s teaching job in the conservatory or his composing. In addition to that, as many other composers of his time, he wrote music for movies; as a prominent composer of his country, he also did not escape the lot of praising the persona of Stalin. Songs in his honor were also written by A. Moyzes, A. Očenáś, Š. Jurovský, D. Kardoš, and L. Holoubek. Among the musical works for movies, especially famous became the music for the film “Vlčiediery” by Paľo Bielik (Op. 27, 1948), dedicated to the resistance uprising.Based on the music for the film, in 1949 the composer created a symphonic suite.

The year 1947 marked the beginning of the collaboration between the composer and the renowned conductor and composer Ľudovít Rajter, who on October 3 of 1947 along with the Czech Radio orchestra performed the Morning poem. Around the same time, Cikker completed one of his brightest and mature compositions – the triptych Spomienky (Memories) Op. 25, performed by Ľudovít Rajter in Bratislava in 1949 (later Spomienky entered the repertoire of the renowned Czech conductor Václav Talich). In it, the composer continues to advance the principles of the conflict dramaturgy. The figurative sphere is distinguished by a great contrast between the elaborate lyrics of the first part and the dramaturgical tension of the subsequent parts. The polyphonic methods of development of the theme are partially led to the use of fugue in the last part and the final dramatic culmination. In the triptych Spomienky , the unstrained spontaneousness of expressions, inherent to the early compositions, yielded the place to the strictness of form and thoughtfulness of the concept. As a whole, the symphonic oeuvres of the 1940’s demonstrated maturity of Cikker’s mastery and declared him as bright national artist.

The year 1949 became the historic year for the Slovak musical education, when the Higher School of Music was opened in Bratislava. A significant role in its establishment (as well as in the restoration of the Slovak Philharmonic) was played by Ján Strelec, who worked in the Slovak music school that was opened back in 1922 and became the base for the creation of the Academy. Best pedagogues from the conservatory were invited to become docents, including Cikker and Moyzes. Cikker strived for establishment of individuality among his students, who later became talented composers across the entire Europe. Among his students of various years were composers of the “top ten” in the Slovak music: Miroslav Bázlik, Milan Dubovský, Jurai Benes, Igor Dibak, and others. But the one who later became the most famous and the one whom Cikker favored the most was Ilja Zeljenka (1932-2007), who graduated in 1956. He signed up for Cikker’s class without a strong professional preparation, but the perceptive pedagogue could see in him not only vast creative potential, but also a rare quality: Ilja Zeljenka always knew what he wanted to write and how to do it.Cikker possessed a unique ability to encourage effort of his students towards experimenting; it is interesting that Cikker himself never made it his goal to radically update the compositional means, although his students were famed for bright and creatively convincing use of newest techniques. In this path, Zeljenka and Kolman were the brightest examples. Thus, the graduating work of Peter Kolman – Monumento per 6. 000 000 – received great resonance, and the former student with help from his teacher organized the experimental studio at the Bratislava Radio. Among Cikker’s students we need to also highlight Jurai Benes, who became the most prominent opera composer of modern Slovakia. His pedagogical activity in the Higher School of MusicCikker finished in 1973.

Cikker understood that unlike in other European countries, in Slovak music the manifestation of national origin during the pre-war years was rather sparse. Other than Suchoň’s work, he highly respected the work of Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský, identifying in him an important quality consisting in combination of high level of composing techniques and the ability of his work to reach a broad spectrum of audiences. Cikker believed that the establishment of Slovak musical culture must follow the path of perfecting professional mastery and reference to the themes of the historical past, as well as the modern life of Slovakia. This idea had a defining influence upon his composing throughout the 1940’s. Cikker’s likeminded ally was Alexander Moyzes, whose work also combined modern music techniques and the characteristic elements of the folk culture. Moyzes’ students – Kardoš, Očenáś, and Jurovský – also saw prospects for their development in this direction. The process of establishment of the modern Slovak composing school was typical for the countries of Eastern Europe (Russia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania), but took place at a later time.

In the 1950’s Cikker’s work receives wide acclaim. Overall, during this time the composer is attracted to program concepts and music that is linked to lyrics – he continues composing vocal numbers in folklore style (including choral arrangements), but his main goal becomes writing operas. In the Slovak opera culture the age-old problem was the lack of quality librettos. The brightest event in the opera of that time was only the Suchoň’s Krútňava (1949), which Cikker considered a work of international significance. This opera became an example for Cikker, towards which he oriented himself while creating his first opera JuroJánošík (1950-1953). While working on this opera, Cikker received assistance in form of advice from his friend, conductor Václav Talich. In 1946 Talich returned, creating the Czech Chamber Orchestra. The conductor worked in Prague and Bratislava, and was a renowned master; he actively promoted the new Slovak music.

The libretto for the opera about Juro Jánošík – a hero of folk legends, and on the events of the brink of the XVII-XVIII centuries was written by Štefan Hoza. In the libretto he used folk songs, tales and ballades, but the foundation of the syujet was based on historical facts.Cikker himself also actively participated in the libretto writing process. He held dear the folklore idea of the oeuvre, but along with the librettist they strived to strengthen the realistic foundation of the storyline and vivid, vital images. In the Slovak tradition the creative interpretation of the events of Jánošík’s life established in the XIX century and continued to develop, though the authors of the opera attempted to avoid the typical romantic layering. Cikker spent a lot of time working on the opera and polishing details.The opera has a strict three-act structure (two pictures in each act),it is rich with musical “signs” of the places of actions (Slovak, “bandit”, Italian dancing and songs) and the system of leit-themes and leitmotifs that characterize the heroes. The choral scenes and ensembles were written with great mastery; it is no accident that Cikker was always fascinated by the area of vocal-choral work. The musical language of the opera differs in its melodic richness, thefull of sound colorsorchestra texture is saturated with polymelodics, and a significant place is held by the polyphonic episodes [1].

The premiere of Juro Jánošík found great success of the stage of the Slovak national theatre on November 10, 1954. The critic and composer Ladislav Burlas noted that the creative value of the opera lies in the “mature individual musical style of Cikker, who presents an ideal synthesis of peculiarities of the national and personal compositional musical thinking. Such peculiarity is evident in the melodics of the vocal parts and the character of the orchestra presentation. The orchestra is the key means of expression of the large dramatic conflicts. Even though we are talking about Cikker’s first opera work, in it he has proven his great talent as a dramaturge and the precise understanding of the issues associated with creation of musical-scenic works” [4, p. 168].

After completing the opera, Cikker vacationed in his beloved Tatra Mountains, continuing to study the national culture. Here obtained the concept for the next opera – Beg Gajazid, and wrote the three virtuoso piano etudes Tatransképotoky (1954). In a book store in Bratislava he saw a beautifully published poem by Samo Chalupka (1812-1883) “Turčin Poničan”. The image illustrating a Turkish bey, Slovak woman and a child on the cover immediately captures Cikker’s attention. The opera about the struggle of Slovaks with Turks was conceived as a historical drama in three acts, and continued the genre-line of the Juro Jánošík. The libretto for the opera was written by Ján Smrek; being himself captivated and following composer’s wishes, he created his own storyline based on the poem. The idea fascinated Cikker to such extent that by the Christmas of 1955 the opera was completed for piano. Its presentation (the premiere took place in 1957) that took place in Bratislava, Prague, Košice, Wiesbaden, Altenburg, and other cities had even greater success than the production of the Juro JánošíkI. In the opera Cikker uses the technique of working with theme that consists in extraction of any sort of motif and transforming it into separate new themes. Reference to the Eastern theme significantly enriched the rhythmic sphere; composer often usescomplex time signatures; polyrhythm;characteristic national rhythms; and the rhythmic picture often becomes conceptual, characterizing the heroes and the situation. The musical fabric of the opera also differs in its polyphony, and linear development of several textural planes. The accents in such texture are created by the chords of the wind instruments; the chord structure is used in the dramatic episodes, while Cikker uses the maximal escalation of all tones of the chord, implements sophisticated chromatic consonances, and various types of chords, although the “signature” of the harmonic sphere of the opera becomes the grand seventh chord. The theme of the opera also defined the conflict melodic dramaturgy, based on contraposition of the Slavic and Eastern melodiousness, which certainly beautified and enriched the musical language of the opera.

The opera Mister Scrooge (1958-1959) was written in a completely different key, written on the novella by Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol”. Libretto for the already written opera was edited by Ján Smrek. Mister Scrooge presents a completely different genre of the opera – a chamber drama in three acts (four scenes). Starting on this opera, Cikker set a goal to master new composing techniques. Their essence consisted in the linear-polyphonic development of the texture and use of harmonic structures, the thematic calculation of the interval which led Cikker to the use of serial principles in its “interval harmony”. The opera had few ensemble scenes, uncommonly monologic, and each of the heroes had their own intonational characteristics with the inherent interval composition, while the vocal parts dominate the declamational principle. Cikker’s new opera was a waiting production several years – it was deemed an idealistically controversial work that does not correspond with the cultural demands and cannot be placed on the leading stage of the country. The premiere of the opera in Czechoslovakia on June 2, 1964 in the National Theatre in Prague during the festival of “Prague Spring”, and was broadcasted on the television in Bratislava. After the failure of the planned production of the opera, Cikker was only able to overcome depression after starting on a new opera. The opera, which was based on the novel of Leo Tolstoy “Vzkriesenie” (Resurrection) and completed in 1961, became one of the highlights of composer’s career. The choice of Russian story, not least bit less complicated for opera than Dickens’ story, was also supported by Cikekr’s friends, but the composer faced the difficult task of adapting the Russian text.Analyzing the writing process of the opera, Cikker noted that a composer must be interested in the story, since the form is defined by the content of the libretto, and depends on its idealistic value and ability to move and convince by its sincerity and depth.This is the reason why Cikker was unafraid to turn to large canvases of classical literature – Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and ancient tragedy.

In Tolstoy’s novel the composer selected the storyline of personal relations between Katyusha Maslova and Neklyudov, thus the genre of the opera (also in three acts) can be defined as a melodrama. The composer wrote the libretto himself, employing consultation from Russian acquaintances (let us note that from this point forth all librettos the composer was writing himself). In the Resurrection Cikker advances the compositional techniques that he developed in the previous opera, but the intonational structureis distinguished by great freedom. “Russian notes” seep through in the reference to the modal structures, which overall dominate the twelve-tone system and principle of expanded tonality.Cikker significantly enriched the vocal sphere, filling it with lyrics combined with declamation; especially interesting is the use of free recitative fragments. The Resurrection opera produced a vast interest in musical world and gained resonance: in Germany it was awarded the Herder Prize for 1966, and in Czechoslovakia – the Klement Gottwald Award. After the premiere in Prague (on May 18, 1962) and Bratislava (on September 12, 1969), the opera was also staged in other leading theatres; it is interesting to remember the production by Walter Felsensteinin the Komische Oper Berlin.

But Cikker’s work during these years was not limited to opera writing – he also wrote several orchestra compositions: Dramatic Fantasy (1956), Variations for the Theme from the Opera of Giuseppe Verdi Un ballo in maschera (1962), Selig sind die Toten; Mediation on the topic of Heinrich Schütz (1964), Orchestra Sketches for the Drama (1965, on the sketch for the play “The Physicists” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, which the composer wanted to use as the libretto for his next opera). The opera director Rennert Günther gave the composer the idea to refer to the events of the French Revolution, and Cikker chose the drama of Romain Rolland – “The Game of Love and Death”, written in 1925 (the Slovak title of the opera can be translated as “Play on Love and Death”). Over the Fall of 1966 he prepared the libretto; in September he wrote the opera for piano, and in May of 1968 he completed the score.

Syuzhet of Rolland’s drama attracted the composer with the parallels emerging between the events of the Jacobins dictatorship and the events of the social life of the 1950’s. Cikker did not set out to create an effective work; on the contrary, the opera The Game of Love and Death was planned as a modern production with minimal props and ornamentation of a unified scenic space without curtains and lavish decorations. The modesty of the entourage had to highlight the value of human feelings and relations. As in the Resurrection , in TheGame of Love and Death Cikker stopped on the main storylines of Rolland’s drama; in some fragments he introduced his own text, underlining the idea of the piece – the struggle of love of a married couple with insurmountable circumstances leading to their demise.Opera expresses the protest against all that destroys the human right to liberty and happiness, and is written in a genre of through-composed psychological drama, representing a chamber spectacle in single act. Its form is organized by the musical-thematic arch between opening and conclusion: dramatic opening presents the “triumph of death”; upon its material the tragic “quite” and is built, symbolizing the inevitability of the heroes’ death. The symmetry of the composition is also highlighted by the parallels between the first and final dialogues of the married couple.

The Game of Love and Death is one of the brightest and original opera works. The musical language of the opera is distinguished by its free development of the melodic declamation in the vocal parts, polyphony, and polymetry; its harmonic foundation is the free atonality. The colorfulness of the sound palette is also characteristic to this opera, but in an attempt to highlight the significance of the vocal part and the word as such, the composer leads the sound of the orchestra into a quite dynamic, with exception in few fragments. This technique heightens the effect of tension and fear, piercing the emotional atmosphere of the play. The premiere of The Game of Love and Death took place on August 1, 1969 on the International Opera Festivalin Munich; the composer gave the right to the premiere to the director who gave him the idea for this opera – Rennert Günthe. A number of triumphal productions of The Game of Love and Death followed across Germany, where it was compared to the operas of A. Berg.

For the 200-year anniversary of Beethoven, Cikker wrote two oeuvres – Variations of Hommage à Beethoven (1969) and the opera based on the Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Coriolanus (1972). The overture to the opera was conceived in Beethoven’s traditions (more specifically, the famous namesake overture), and performed at the “Prague Spring” festival in 1970.The opera expressed composer’s negative attitude towards the events that took place on August of 1968. Cikker was never indifferent towards political events. Having experienced world wars, he resented any manifestation of violence. More than once the composer considered moving abroad – after he was forced to leave the theatre, and after the production of his opera Mister Scrooge was rejected. Cikker was invited to work in Genève, Amsterdam, and the United States, but he always declined, understanding that on foreign land without contact with his home culture it would be a lot more difficult.

The composition Tragedy of Coriolanus was compared with Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Janáček’s operas, which was due to significance of the choral episodes and clear recitation of the vocal parts, rather than political orientation. This opera preserved the traditional three-act structure that organized fourteen scenes. Cikker significantly altered many details of the story, underlining the differences in the characters of heroes fighting for justice, uncompromising in their fight for freedom, but full of humanistic feelings. The ancient theme led him to the search of expressive “clarified” musical style, to the return of the bright, figurative orchestral writing. After the completion of Tragedy of Coriolanus , there was a break in Cikker’s opera work. He taught and wrote chamber compositions. His central work of the early 70’s was the Symphony 1945 , written in 1974 in commemoration of the 30 years since the end of the World War II. Cikker always emphasized that he wrote his symphony on his own sincere accord, as a memory of heroic historical fact, significance of which cannot be argued. Accepting the fact that the Eastern European countries have “paid” for their liberation, he believed that another fate for the entire Central Europe is unimaginable – it would have been destroyed by the fascists. In the Symphony 1945 Cikker continued the dramaturgical idea of his symphonic oeuvres of the 1940’s. The composition represents a classical four-part cycle, where a great importance lies in the symbolism of the themes – Slovak and Russian. The first part, written in a strict sonata form, ends in a quiet culmination; the mood of uncertainty as if poses the question of the future before the listener.The slow-paced second part, which develops the Slovak and Russian themes, is filled with sadness, and contrasts the dance of the third part – rondo. It brings back the moods of Cikker’s early works – Slovak Suite , Concertino , and the JuroJánošík opera. The finale represents a cycle of variations the theme Scherzo from the Symphony B flat major by Antonín Dvořák and is distinguished in its concentric composition. The middle is the eight, a brief lyrical variation, after which the thematism is developed through the polyphonic means. The concept of the form, structured upon the principles of conflict drama, is distinguished by the epic scale and richness of lyrical images.

In 1977 the composer again returns to the opera genre, turning to the story of “The Earthquake in Chile” by Heinrich von Kleist, written in 1807. The final version of the new opera received the title The Verdict and was produced on October 6 of 1979 in Bratislava, and later in Germany and the Czech Republic. The opera consists of three acts (five scenes) and yet again develops the principles of musical drama, inheriting the lines of the preceding operas. It is dedicated to the tragic love of the heroes, perishing from the religious fanaticism of the crowd. “Anger and hate accompanied all human generations, whether they sang Dies irae , … or Hej, horeháj, dolyháj . The hate has always been the hate, and my goal was to reveal its effects. Same goes for fanaticism, which is dangerous for all. Where are the thoughts of love to our neighbors, of forgiveness of sins, of Christianturning the other cheek ? My opera, perhaps, is merely a musical reflection of personal protest against trampling of human dignity and the injustice of humiliation. I set no other goals in The Verdict opera” [4, p. 300].Hence the opera’s closing dissonating orchestral tutti expresses the composer’s protest and sums up the final line of the old woman – “People, for what do you judge the innocent?”

The musical value of the work is defined by the thematism related to the line of love shared by the main characters Isabel and Lorenzo. The other two dramaturgical lines – faith and religious fanaticism – create a conflict sphere, which is dominated by the development of thematism of Catholic liturgy, in particular, the sequence Dies irae . The opera is distinguished by its bright imagery, counterpoints and conflictness of the musical characteristics. In it, Cikker uses the method of growing the vocal parts from the orchestral fabric, which creates the unity of the sound complex. The vocal parts astonish in their diversity of techniques and means, often used polyphonically – as, for example, in the final ensemble. Despite the complexity of the vocal parts, cantilena dominates in this opera in comparison to preceding operas. It is largely due to the trend towards further clarification of the language, encompassing all of Cikker’s later works. In this opera the foundation of the texture becomes the heterophony, but the process of continuous current of the music, unity of the sound complex of the orchestra and vocals, allow us to speak about work as a bright manifestation of opera symphonism.

The genre of comedic opera attracted the composer rather late – he was 70 years old when he wrote the opera Obliehanie Bystrice (“The Siege of Bystrica”, 1981, based on the novel of a Hungarian comedic writer Kálmán Mikszáth); then, in 1986, he completed another musical comedy based on the satirical play of the Capek brothers – Ausdem Leben der Insekten (“From the life of insects”, premiered in Bratislava on October 8 of 1983). The title of the opera The Siege of Bystrica intrigued the musical society – Bystrica, siege, Cikker – all of it was linked to the events of the war. However, In Mikszáth’s novel Cikker was attracted to the humor and the Slovak roots of the writer. The situation forces him to lay siege to Bystrica, but he will not succeed in this “unrighteous” deed. The composer chose the comedic episodes in the literary source, and united them into a logically-progressing storyline, which intertwines comedy, tragic comedy, drama, and lyrics (comedic line is decorated by the heroes’ love story).

The opera consists of three acts (nine scenes) and inherits two main creative directions of Cikker – the line of modern realization of folklore, and the line leading from the opera Mister Scrooge , developing the modern composing techniques. During these years Cikker periodically returned to realization of Slovak folklore in orchestral compositions; syuzhet of the new opera created limited conditions for using folklore, and not only Slovak, but also Hungarian, Gypsy, Ukrainian, and German. The opera’s musical language is dominated by the Slovak-Magyar intonational complexes;based on the modal-diatonic structuresthe composer creates new forms of scales (including atypical, with gaps of tones: eight-note, ten-note, eleven-note, etc., each of which is “fixed” after one of the leitmotifs). Especially saturated with folklore intonations are the first, sixth, and ninth scenes of the opera, where the composer also uses direct folklore quotes. Compared to the drama operas, the musical language of The Siege of Bystrica is distinguished by the dominance of the vocal parts. The style of the vocal parts is more cantilena and natural in the used intonations, which corresponds with the comedic specificity of the storyline. It is interesting that the opera does not have choirs (they are replaced by men’s ensembles) and develops the trend of the preceding operas in the reduction of the volume of the orchestra dynamic. The orchestral score is fairly transparent, but as in all Cikker’s compositions, it is distinguished by its colorfulness. The folklore motifs endowed the orchestration a refined character; in addition to that, the orchestral parts are rich with game of timbres, which add psychological meaning to the heroes’ lines.

In 1987 Bratislava hosted the premiere of Cikker’s last finished opera – From the Life of the Insects . Syuzhet of the opera in three acts with prologue and epilogue is based on a metaphor. Naturally, out of two versions of the storyline the composer picked the one, which as many of his operas (with the exception of Beg Bajazid and The Siege of Bystrica ) ends with the death of the hero. Cikker’s last opera became a proverb on the meaning of human life and its values – first and foremost, love and mutual help.The opera involved a large cast of performers – over 30 soloists, choir, ballet, and a grand symphonic orchestra. Its stylistics corresponds with the character of the art of these years – clarification of the musical language, imagery of the characteristics and precise use of dramaturgical techniques, and vivid melodicism and lyrical orientation. After this opera, the composer considered opera work completed.Having started composing the opera Antigone by Sophocles’ tragedy, he decided that it will not be relevant for the modern situation and destroyed the work in progress. On this sad note Cikker’s creative work has ended. The composer died on December 21, 1989.

The work of Ján Cikker has a lasting importance for more than just the Slovak culture. His name can rightly be called alongside the founders of the modern national composing schools of Europe. It is not by accident that in 1979 the composer became the first Czechoslovakian musician to receive the UNESCO prize. Ján Cikker’s oeuvres are distinguished by the clarity of concept, bright imagery, poeticism and humanism. The main theme of his workis the theme of human identity, developed in many works and shining with many facets. The composer embodied the national theme and realized the national folklore on the highest level of compositionalmastery, and just as important is his role in the development of modern Slovak composing school. One could express hope that the talented and highly artistic works of Ján Cikker will also become known to our music society.

References
1.
Polyakova L. Cheshskaya i slovatskaya opera KhKh veka. Kn. 2. M: Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1983. C. 123.
2.
Polyakova L. Yan Tsikker: «Ya schitayu, chto nado pisat' muzyku o cheloveke, ego dukhovnom razvitii…» // Sovetskaya muzyka. 1971. № 9. S. 133–135.
3.
Sukhon' E. Byt' iskrennim // Sovetskaya muzyka. 1983. № 12. S. 118–120.
4.
Palovčik M. Ján Cikker v spomienkach a tvorbe. Prešov: Matúš music, 1995.
5.
Šamko J. Ján Cikker. SVKL, Bratislava, 1955.
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