Contemporary music in Czechoslovakia since 1945: An analysis of piano sonatas by Jiri Gemrot composed during and after the Communist regime
Doctor of Musical Arts
The Communist Party dominated the country of Czechoslovakia throughout most of the second half of the twentieth century. In addition to maintaining tight political control of the country to prevent the emergence of any threats to its power, the Communist government also exercised significant power over the society's cultural organs and influenced their output to favor works that it felt supported its revolutionary ideology. The power of the Party was not constant, but went through two oscillations of relative strength and weakness, which affected the extent to which it was able to impose its will on the country. In the music world, in periods when the regime was weak, non-orthodox musical ideas found their way into Czechoslovak society through various conduits. When the regime was strong, these routes seemed to close, the people and organizations that opened them were marginalized, and the penetration of these new ideas diminished. This study examines the effect that the policies of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia had on music composition, through analyses of two piano sonatas by a living Czech composer, Jiri Gemrot. These sonatas were written in different times, one during the end of the Communist period, the other several years afterwards, and so are potentially affected by the composer's changed attitudes towards composition with the fall of the Communist Government. The analyses conclude, however, that there was not a significant change in the composer's technique between the times of writing the two sonatas, suggesting that he was not greatly affected by Communist attempts to maintain music orthodoxy in Czechoslovakia. It is further suggested that although the composer had exposure to, and the opportunity to compose in, progressive compositional styles, Gemrot's musical inclinations led him to write in a compositional style that, while non-orthodox, was not deemed threatening to the cultural ideology of the Party.