Karel Janeček: Counterpoint (1945–1948) II – Critical Analysis of a Forgotten Text
From 1941–1946, Karel Janeček was a professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory. It was there he began to work on his major theoretical writings: Základy moderní harmonie (“Principles of Modern Harmony”, written between 1942 and 1949), and Kontrapunkt (written from 1945–1948). In his preface to the book Skladatelská práce v oblasti klasické harmonie (“Compositional Work in the Field of Classical Harmony”), of 1968, the author noted that a follow-up volume, Skladatelská práce v oblasti kontrapunktu (“Compositional Work in the Field of Counterpoint”), was already partly worked out. However, he had never published any such study, and nor has it been found in his posthumous papers. One of the present paper’s goals is to find an answer to the question whether Janeček might have regarded his unfinished textbook on counter- point as a preliminary to the new book. Beyond that, the present text aims to compare Janeček’s theories with two earlier standard Czech works about counterpoint: Nauka o kompozici (1880–1884) by F.Z. Skuherský, and Nauka o kontrapunktu, imitaci a fuze (1936) by Otakar Šín.
The present study continues by a section dealing with imitational technique and canons, and concludes with an introduction to instrumental counterpoint. Canons, a technical element on whose accomplished handling Janeček laid great emphasis, occupy a central position in his Kontrapunkt. The originality of his work consists in its distinction between the traditional inver- tible counterpoint, and movable counterpoint. Movable counterpoint (přenosný kontrapunkt) is defined as a melody (voice, counterpoint) which conforms in terms of melody and harmony to a given cantus firmus (c.f.), both in the original pitch and in one shifted by an interval upwards or downwards. In his reflections on contrapuntal techniques, Janeček even proceded to coin a novel category of dvojznačný kontrapunkt (“dual counterpoint”). By this term he de- noted a type of counterpoint that would be fitting simultaneously for two c.f.’s, which means it would correspond to two melodies of an approximately equal length and belonging in the same tonal and metric categories.
Keywords: theory of counterpoint; imitation; canons; instrumental counterpoint
Translated by Ivan Vomáčka