• Pablo Ziffer

Leopold Godowsky ‒ Java Suite



Leopold Godowsky (1870 - 1938), Java Suite (1924 - 1925)

Performed by Esther Budiardjo (2000)

00:00 - No. 1 Gamelan

03:40 - No. 2 Wayang-Purwa, Puppet Shadow Plays

07:30 - No. 3 Hari Besaar, The Great Day

12:33 - No. 4 Chattering Monkeys at the Sacred Lake of Wendit

14:35 - No. 5 Boro Buudur in Moonlight

18:50 - No. 6 The Bromo Volcano and the Sand Sea at Daybreak

22:32 - No. 7 3 Dances

28:22 - No. 8 The Gardens of Buitenzorg

32:26 - No. 9 In the Streets of Old Batavia

36:17 - No. 10 In the Kraton

42:46 - No. 11 The Ruined Water Castle at Djokja

48:00 - No. 12 A Court Pageant in Solo

Godowsky published his Java Suite in New York in 1925 under the title Phonoramas: Tonal Journeys for the Pianoforte, dedicating it to his friend J. Campbell Phillips. In his introduction to the whole work Godowsky explains his admiration for the ancient culture and native music of the Javanese, pointing out that the latter is all in duple or quadruple time, the counterpart of his Walzermasken and Triakontameron, which are all in triple time. He provides ample introductions to each of the pieces, the first of which, Gamelan, nowadays will need no explanation. Godowsky aims to reproduce something of the sonority of the gamelan, on the whole avoiding the chromatic. In Wayang-Purwa: Puppet Shadow Plays versions of Hindu epics are presented by shadow puppets, the Dalang, manipulated with bamboo rods so that their shadows are seen on a white screen. Hari Besaar: The Great Day represents a country fair, attended by people gathering from plantations and villages to enjoy the performances of actors, musicians, dancers and fakirs.

The second part of the suite starts with Chattering Monkeys at the Sacred Lake of Wendit. Godowsky explains in his preface that the lake is a few miles away from the little city of Malang. The chattering monkeys, jumping from tree to tree and snatching bananas from visitors, offer a scene of fun and animation, presented in an Allegro scherzando. Boro Budur in Moonlight depicts the great Buddhist shrine, with its many sculptures of Buddhas, seen in melancholy and eerie moonlight and suggesting the transitory nature of human endeavour. In The Bromo Volcano and the Sand Sea at Daybreak Godowsky tells of crossing the sea of sand to reach the sight of the great volcano, suggesting to him scenes from Dante’s Inferno with its rising vapours and dense clouds, feelings of human futility to be dispelled by the rays of the sun rising in triumph.

The third part opens with Three Dances, the first languid and melancholy, the second graceful and the third suggesting poetry and tenderness. The Gardens of Buitenzorg recall the air perfumed by exotic flowers, producing feelings of insatiable longing. Buitenzorg, Godowsky explains, a name meaning Sans Souci, lies forty miles from Batavia and is the country capital where, at this time, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies had his residence. In the Streets of Old Batavia takes the visitor among exotic crowds, to the Chinese quarter and to the Arab settlement and, finally, to the native quarter and all the wild variety of the bazaar.

In the Kraton evokes the enclosures in which the Sultans have their palaces and entourages. Godowsky writes of the capital of the chief Sultan, the Susuhunan, in Solo, the popular name for Surakarta, and the next in importance, the Sultan of Djokja, the popular name of Djokjakarta. The distant sound of the gamelan informs the scene. Near the Kraton of Djokja stand the crumbling remains of the Water Palace with its fountains and cascades. The festivities of former times are now vanished, and The Ruined Water Castle at Djokja suggests yearning for the past and mourning for departed love. Godowsky ends his Phonoramas with A court Pageant in Solo, depicting what he describes as the pomp, bombast and gorgeousness of a royal procession on a festive occasion. There is again a passing air of melancholy, dispelled by a fugato and the final resumption of the processional march.

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