Perhaps the best-known of his many chamber works, Janácek's Mládí was composed towards the end of an illustrious career and first performed at a concert given in celebration of the composer's seventieth birthday in 1924. This was a career which had begun when, at the age of eleven, he joined the Augustinian 'Queen's' Monastery in Old Brno as a choirboy; this work, bearing the Hungarian title Mládí (meaning 'Youth'), is a somewhat nostalgic reminiscence of his formative years. Janácek makes unashamed use of the six voices of his chosen orchestration to mimic the most elementary and familiar child-like motifs, and it is in this spirit that the work is best appreciated.
It is such a familiar recurring motif around which the first movement is set: the listener is able to distinguish the sounds of playful (and sometimes mischievous) infants from the Kindergarten. The second movement contrasts the monastic chants of Janácek's schooling as a choirboy with boys' inexhaustible energy for recreation, while the third develops the same theme in its portrayal of the choristers marching in their blue cassocks. Indeed, this movement was composed as a piece for piccolo and piano entitled: 'The March of the Blue Birds'. By the fourth movement, the raconteur is well-advanced into the trials and tribulations of his teenage years. JCC
© 1999 The Arethusa Ensemble