Vítězslava Kaprálová’s Piano Concerto in D Minor

Vítezslava KAPRÁLOVÁ: Piano Concerto in D minor
Composed: 1935
Length: c. 22 minutes
Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor is Kaprálová’s first orchestral composition and a final fruit of her studies at the Brno Conservatory where she enrolled in 1930 as a girl barely fifteen years old. She was the first female student in the history of the Conservatory to be accepted into a double major program of composition and conducting. The first movement of the three-movement concerto (Allegro entusiastico – Largo – Allegro) is still grounded in the romantic idiom. The second movement, unusually short and dominated by a simple melancholy melody, is in contrapuntal style. The last, rondo movement, however, already anticipates a new creative period which was to blossom under the guidance of Novák. The composition convincingly displays the versatility of Kaprálová’s musical talent, with its typical energy and passion, lyricism, intelligent humor, spontaneity, but also discipline.

The full concerto was premiered by the Brno Radio Orchestra on October 15, 1936, in a broadcast of the Brno Radiojournal. Several more performances of the work followed, and after the war it was even recorded for the Czech Radio (featuring Berta Rixová-Kabeláčová and the conductor Karel Ančerl, the future music director of the Toronto Symphony), but the recording did not survive, and a few years later the work disappeared altogether from the orchestral repertoire. By then Kaprálová’s life, the mere twenty-five years of it, was over for more than a decade. Yet even in the short time allotted to her she was able to fulfill the mission that  her close family friend, the musicologist Vladimír Helfert once prompted her to follow: “And you must always pursue the ideal of truth and artistic profundity. To be honest in your art! These are the very internal struggles, without which one cannot live a rich inner life … to soldier on, not to give in to temptation, to be faithful to the ideals of beauty and truth. This often requires sacrifice and great courage. Without them, however, there is not great art. For this journey, I wish you, on this day, a lot of mental strength for the rest of your life!”