Jaroch Jiří

  • Jaroch
Year of Birth - Death :
1920 - 1986 †
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The composer Jiri Jaroch belonged to a generation of Czech composers which shaped itself and entered the musical scene in the 1940s. He received his musical training in Jaroslav Řídký's school of composition at the Prague Conservatoire and at the Academy of Performing Arts, where he acquired not only a perfect working knowledge of various composition techniques but also an independent and responsible attitude to creative work. A salient feature of Jaroch's music was exclusive orientation on instrumental compositions, on symphonic and chamber works. In this respect, his preference for instrumental music was fully consonant with the underlying musical nature of his teacher Jaroslav Řídký, a distinguished Czech symphonist and author of major chamber compositions. Jaroch also gained valuable experiences for his future career during his practice as a viola player. This practical training in chamber ensembles and orchestras stood him in good stead in refining his sensitive approach to chamber music and symphonic styles. Jaroch crowned his career of a performing artist with studies of viola playing with the leading Czech virtuoso Ladislav Černý and a two-year angagement in the orchestra of the present-day Smetana Theatre in Prague. In 1947 he joined the Czechoslovak Radio's musical broadcasting department, working there for many years as an editor, music producer and dramaturgist, with the sole exception of a short period during which he gave composition lessons to Jiří Teml, nowadays an eminent Czech composer of the older generation, Jiří Jaroch never devoted himself to pedagogical activities.

In the early days of his career Jaroch modelled his musical language on the late romantic style of his teacher but soon afterwards he began treading his own path, building up a specific modal system of his own, based on tritonal interval and chordal relations, which gave rise to the melodic and harmonic texture of Jaroch's compositions. In his lifelong work Jiří Jaroch never paid any heed to the number of compositions he produced but rather emphasised the importance of completing each project with utmost thoroughness and responsibility. A minute elaboration of each composition to the smallest detail, its firm expressional and formal structure - those are the salient features distinguishing Jaroch's creative profile. His mu­sic is invariably vigorous, overflowing with dramatic tension, packed with a lively rhythmic pulse and aiming at a maximum concise expression. Furthermore, a tectonic viewpoint and considerations always seem to predominate.

In orchestral music Jaroch stood out among his contemporaries as the author of three symphonies, each of them representing a different type: the First Symphony was conceived as a large-scale composition with an extensive orchestral set-up, putting across a serious social message, whereas the Second Symphony is much more concise and intimate than its predecessor: after all, the author set himself the task of producing an orchestral composition based on the formal groundwork of a suite, employing as limited an instrumental apparatus as possible. This particular symphony was eventually awarded a special prize in a nationwide competition held to mark the 15th anniversary of the liberation of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II and it was also performed at the Warsaw Autumn Music Festival in 1962 by the Prague Chamber Orchestra for which it was originally composed. Jaroch's Third Concertante Symphony for Violin and Orchestra originated out of the composer's decision to write a concerto tailormade for the Japanese violinist Yuriko Kuronuma. As the work on this composition progressed, the share of its orchestral component kept on growing to such an extent that it soon matched the solo part. This persuaded the author to change the composition's title to a more appropriate description - that of symphony. As regards Jaroch's orchestral music, a truly dazzling success was achieved by his symphonic poem written on the theme of Ernest Hemingway's novel The Old Man and the Sea and dedicated to the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of its 35th foundation anniversary. This highly dramatic work, inspired by the central idea of its literary model, notably man's life-and-death struggle for the attainment of his cherished goal, attracted considerable attention not only in Czechoslovakia but also in the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, West Germany, Sweden, Cuba and other countries. As a rule, Jiří Jaroch was in the habit of writing his compositions with a specific performing artist or orchestra in mind. Thus, at the suggestion of the prominent Czech viola player Lubomír Malý, Jaroch composed the Fantasy for Viola and Orchestra (1962); its overall concept came very close to that of a one-movement concerto but the seminal importance of the function of the orchestra made the composer change its title.

As for Jiří Jaroch's chamber music, his playful and poetic Children's Suite for Nonet, written as a gift to the child­ren of the members of the Czech Nonet, has over the ye­ars turned out to be Jaroch's most frequently performed composition. The Czech Nonet has had this work on its permanent repertoire, playing it during concert tours vir­tually all over the world. In a sense, a counterweight to this fresh chamber miniature is the Second Nonet which won the Prize of the Czech Music Fund. Due to the great significance of its underlying social message and its composition technique, this chamber music piece has come to be a kind of symphony for the nonet in its own right. Challenged by the members of the Prague ensemble "Chamber Harmony", Jaroch composed his Metamorphoses for Twelve Wind Instruments, a work in which he decided to tackle the problem of variations. On another occasion, inspired by the great musicianship of the Smetana Quartet, the composer created the Second String Quartet (1970), a composition of supreme intensity of feeling and concentration of expression, which had its premiere in the same year at the International Music Festival Musica Bohemica et Europae in Brno.

The apparent ease of invention and experiences of an accomplished performing artist evidently came in handy to Jaroch's orchestral compositions of a light popular nature (namely Furiant, Spring Waltz, Summer Festival etc.) which were written with intention to enrich the offer of the Czechoslovak Radio's music programmes.