Janáček’s Sinfonietta straddles nationalism and personal freedom in new Murakami novel

Posted on: November 2, 2011

“Music always seems to come first in the novels of Haruki Murakami,” writes Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in Saturday’s (10/29) Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Murakami’s latest novel begins with a fanfare: a taxi stuck in Tokyo traffic, a young woman dressed up for a business appointment in the back seat, and Leoš Janáček’s Sinfonietta, with its glittering masses of brass, blasting from a stereo system of suspiciously good quality. … For all its virile energy and infectious optimism, there is an ambivalence underlying Janáček’s late symphonic masterpiece. Brimming with patriotic pride and dedicated to the Czech military forces, with the composer’s explicit intent of expressing ‘contemporary free man, his spiritual beauty and joy, his strength, courage and determination to fight for victory,’ Janáček’s Sinfonietta tests the balance between naive idealism and raw power. … The pure tonality of the brass fanfares is undermined by harmonies in the dancelike passages that slide around and, at times, lean precariously against one another like drunkards. That makes the Sinfonietta a fitting opening to ‘1Q84,’ a novel that—along with many other subjects—examines utopias and their seductive dangers. And while its septuagenarian composer allows himself a moment of nationalist pride, he’s his own man.”

Posted November 2, 2011