I've written many times about musicians' giving spiels before they play and how intrusive this can be on the music by denying that important transition from the audience's excited chatter as they find their seats, to the musicians' walking on, to the silence before the first note. These spiels are very different from the pre-concert talks which are common now and elective, take place well before the actual concert, and can be informative. Here was a more egregious example — first violin Edward Dusinberre gave an entire short lecture before the Janáček and Britten quartets, complete with short musical excerpts just before they hoed into the actual piece. Then Gordon Kerry himself was brought on to talk about his piece just before they played it. I think even a "modern audience" can take its music straight and have a fighting chance of understanding it. The lecturing seemed to throw them off, the words over-specifying and materializing the music, being too heavily prosaic for the music to bear, though perhaps jet-lag and fatigue from touring, or just a bad day contributed, but it was disappointing that the music of this usually very fine group sounded so flat.
Whether you first became aware of the composer Leoš Janáček while seeing or hearing one of his unusual operas, operas with animal characters, moon people, or 400-year-old women, or, like me, you encountered his well-known Sinfonietta in a traditional orchestra concert, you probably instantly realized that this is a composer with his own distinctive sound and musical sensibility, neither Germanic, like Richard Strauss, Finnish, like Sibelius, or Russian, like Scriabin, to compare him with three of his immediate contemporaries. Though there are occasional echoes of Smetana and Dvořák, the nineteenth century’s two great Czech nationalists, Janáček’s music most often sounds sharply different from theirs nor does he remotely resemble his contemporaries in nearby lands. This relatively short book — about 136 page of easily readable prose — is an exploration of that sound.