Location of the library and its history after Jezek´s death

Personal library of Jaroslav Jezek, a Czech composer who lived in 1906-1942, constitutes a separate part of the Museum of Czech Music collections. It is stored in the original library furniture at "Jaroslav Jezek Blue Room" at Kaprova Street in Prague 1.

This place played a very important role in Jezek´s life. A unique source of information on the "Blue Room" history (and therefore the library) in the article of Dr. Vera Sustikova "Blue Room and the Left Estate of Jaroslav Jezek"[1]. As Sustikova stated in her article: ever since Jezek returned to his parents in 1921 at the age of 15 from the Private Institute for the Education and Treatment of Blind and Sight-Handicapped Children at Prague Hradcany, the newly constructed flat at 10 Kaprova Street was linked for him with joy, expectations and hopes. On the first floor in this house, Jezek was studying for exams at the Prague Conservatory, here started his discovery trips around old Prague and explorations of modern metropolitan life.

Soon afterwards, as Sustikova writes, Jezek had his room redecorated. Walls were painted in light blue color, ceiling in dark blue. Curtains were made also from blue fabric as blue was a pleasant color to his weak eyesight. Strict but stylish furniture from black wood combined with metal was designed by his friend from the Liberated Theatre, architect Frantisek Zelenka.

This was the background of Jaroslav Jezek at the time when he begun to enjoy first successes in concert halls and in the Liberated Theatre. It was here where he composed all his works, here he wrote articles on music, studied, read and listened to the music from the radio and gramophone records. In this room he received his friends, often great artists. He found here shelter after turbulent celebrations. These were definitely happy years for him. The Blue Room was Jezek´s shelter until 9 January 1939 when he had to leave Czechoslovakia. He hoped to return there but it was not to be.

When Jaroslav Jezek died in New York in 1942, the Blue Room was left untouched in exactly the same state as Jezek left it. Many years after the WWII it was still visited by Jezek´s friends and former collaborators as well as young artists, Jezek´s admirers, who wanted to see the place. This gave rise to the idea to preserve the room as Jezek´s memorial.

The history of the memorial idea is slightly unclear and it bears the scar of a moral wrong, (even though correct from purely legal point if view). After the death of Jezek´s mother, Ms Frantiska Jezkova, on 3 January 1966, Jezek´s sister, Jarmila Strnadova, moved into the flat together with her husband. Her husband died on 13 April 1968 and soon afterwards died also their son Mirek (Jezek´s favorite nephew) - on 25 February 1981. When Jarmila Strnadova died (on 5 April 1982), no other family member was registered as the flat resident. Official authorities wanted no compromises. In his book Happy Blues, Frantisek Cinger writes on page 199: "The District Housing Administration had the flat sealed and took over the possession. It had forbidden the entry to family members. A special committee was appointed to decide about the left estate. No family member could participate." The grandson of Jarmila Strnadova, Jaromir, who was in touch with his grandmother until the last moment, told me that he was willing to become an employee of the housing cooperative or the memorial itself in order to be able to live in the flat. However, he was not even allowed to discuss his proposals and instead he was forced to quickly sell his part of the left estate[2].

In 1983, the flat was transferred into the administration of the National Museum - Museum of Czech Music. The Blue Room was declared Jaroslav Jezek Memorial. The remaining two rooms of the flat were transformed into a museum conservatory workshop. After 1989, when the housing cooperative claimed its part, the workshop was cancelled and the flat became the housekeeper´s flat (with Jezek Memorial being an easement).

The contact person for the handover of Jaroslav Jezek left estate was Vaclav Holzknecht, who was in touch with Ms Jezkova over many years and as an expert on Jezek´s work he functioned as a consultant. The archive part of Jezek´s left estate was stored at the Museum of Czech Music. The equipment of the room and Jezek´s library plus the sound recordings library remained in Kaprova Street. After processing and registration, sheet music from Jezek´s library was returned to the flat together with most of the personal effects, two portrait photographs and several prints of Jezek´s sheet music to preserve the room atmosphere.

Books were placed in glassed library cabinets and the shelves in five-shelf-stands were filled with books, sometimes in two rows. Close to the door stood a short multi-purpose closet with a small library, bar and space for gramophone records. The small library included small editions of sheet music, piano reductions of compositions studied and other musical documents. Below were sound recordings with mostly standard records (25 and 30cm in diameter).

Processing of Jezek´s library

In 1983, a list of all items of Jezek library was prepared by Dr. Khel, a National Museum employee. It was him who draw the attention to the unique value of the collection. This also gave an impulse for the processing of Jezek´s library under the framework of this project. When preparing the list, Khel paid attention to all individual signs of the publication in Jezek´s library, registered all handwritten notes, signatures, rubber stamps and inscriptions in Jezek´s books. Thanks to this list, over 200 publications with individualized features have been selected and these features were scanned. (Jezek´s signatures on sheet music have been scanned only occasionally, other signatures are recorded in the attached list). The list was slightly modified and it is attached together with the list of sheet music. Individual marks distinguishing Jezek´s library items from other prints of the particular book in other libraries are mentioned in bibliographic notes to individual titles.


Jaroslav Jezek´s link to the library and the library composition

The library (694 books and magazines and 152 items of sheet music) is a basic tool for a better understanding of Jaroslav Jezek personality. Jezek needed books (and other printed material) during all his life - as a pupil of the Dvorakeum musical centre (1921-22), whose piano performance was strictly censured by Dr. Hermanova, then as a student of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Charles University, but especially as a student of the State Academy of Music where he graduated in 1929. Josef Suk gave him beautiful and pregnant credentials saying that Jezek´s "knowledge of musical works is extraordinary indeed" and characterized the promising composer as a man of "great intelligence, knowledge and erudition".

In his library, Jezek gathered - both knowingly and randomly - literary sources allowing him to gain extensive knowledge of past and modern cultural values. Books were one of the tools, which helped the composer to gain wide cultural insight. Publications were not only the source of information and inspiration, but also the products of bibliographic and artistic culture, the esthetical potential he was able to appreciate because of his natural interest in beautiful things.

Jezek´s bibliographic collections were divided into several subject areas and placed on fixed spots so that he could find them by heart any time[3].

Jezek maintained his library and purchased new books with good understanding and taste. Books suited his interests and he also received many books as presents (especially poetry and novels) from his contemporaries - literary and artistic friends with whom he was related through his own cultural activities in 1920´s and 1930´s[4].

The library includes also publications indicating Jezek´s interest in visual arts: 26 publications of the Prameny edition containing portraits of important artists as well as books on visual art (Czech and foreign), exhibition catalogues, guide books and guides of foreign cities (Paris, Rome).

We won´t be surprised by 30 titles of the Urbanek edition on opera and comic opera librettos or by Musicians of the Former Days by R. Rolland (Prague, 1929). Excerpts from magazines and papers with reviews of his work and concerto performances were kept by Jezek in a special notebook. Jezek library includes also interesting collections of books on music, theatre and dance. Among specialized books we can find Estetika dramatickeho umeni (Prague 1931) by O. Hostinsky, volumes of Bedrich Smetana monography by Zdenek Nejedly (Prague, 1924-1929), Operni sloh Narodniho divadla (Prague, 1933) by F. Pujman, etc.

As mentioned above, sheet music was kept in a small glassed library cabinet. It included pocket-size and study materials, scores, piano reductions and individual printed works, paperback notebooks, hardcover volumes of small or folio formats published in Czechoslovakia or abroad and produced by well-known engraver workshops and score printing houses. We can frequently see works of Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart, Wagner, compositions of Stravinsky and Milhaud. In lesser extent, the library included works of all important European composers - starting from J.S. Bach up to modern French music. Czech authors were represented by B. Smetana, K.B. Jirak, I. Krejci, Z. Fibich, L. Janacek, K. Kovarovic, B. Martinu, V. Novak, O. Ostrcil and J. Suk.

Special place belonged to the so-called Radio-Index published in 1937 by Radiojournal as a "collection of tools and information to help radio listeners", numerous calendars, almanacs and yearbooks (Rocenka rozhledu po literature a umeni, Kalendar ctenare pro rok 1935, Kmen publishing house almanacs for years 1930-38, etc.).

The majority of the publications are very well-preserved, which indicates a careful handling by their owner. Book bindings are mostly sewn in hard-cover folders covered with fabric (V8). Books were often kept in book jackets from smooth cardboard paper to increase their protection.

However, taking into account the time of production of most of the books, it must be said that the paper used for their printing is of poor quality. It frequently contains wood-pulp (which tends to grow yellow over the years and the susceptible to tear) or sulphite cellulose, which is characterized by a relatively high level of acidity (Ph) and fails to ensure the necessary long-term stability of the paper taking into account the current air pollution in Prague (the paper grows yellow and fragile). Only in few cases it was possible to identify the concrete type of the paper, such as in the case of Hra v Kostky by Vitezslav Nezval, the basic version of which was printed on the Antik paper (according to the publisher Rudolf Skerik, fifty copies were later printed also on Dutch Van Gelder paper and 300 copies on the Czech Simili Japan paper).


Individual features in books of Jaroslav Jezek personal library

Signatures, inscriptions, notes


Jezek used to sign his books and often added also information about the place and date of their purchase. A funny example of Jezek´s enthusiastic "participation" in celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Bedrich Smetana birth in 1924 can be found in Smetanuv sbornik (Prague 1921), in which he wrote: "Jara Jezek Praha" together with a note "1824-1924".

On the cover page of sheet music, Jezek liked to write his name and surname together with the names of cities and year to document the place and time of the particular composition purchase. E.g. the Piano Concerto f minor by J.S. Bach (Leipzig-Win, s.a.) includes the following note: "Jaroslav Jezek, Praha 1930"; C. Debussy´s Quatuor (op.10) published by Durand in Paris contains a handwritten note "Jaroslav Jezek, Paris, 1931". Jezek signed and marked dates also on Beethoven´s compositions; similar notes can be found on the work of B. Bartok, P.I. Tchaikovsky, F.Lizst (piano concertos Es major, A major), A. Berg, G. Mahler, H. Berlioz, Borodin (Polovtsian Dances), Bruckner, W.A. Mozart (10 compositions). The extant Paris edition of the Concerto by D. Milhaud published in Paris found its way into Jezek´s library in 1935.

In the copy of Milhaud´s Christoph Columbus, published in Vienna and Leipzig by Universal Edition, Jezek placed his signature above the composer´s inscription which reads: "Souvenir de Milhaud". Also La creation du monde published in Paris includes the signature of its author and Maxmilian (Vienna, Leipzig) includes both signatures - Jezek´s and Milhaud inscribed with the same ink, including a note "Praha 1932".

Also other printed works found in the sheet music part of Jezek´s library include Jezek´s handwritten notes: Hindemith, Poulenc, Palestrina, Handel, Puccini´s Bohéma (Milano, Ricordi), works of M. Ravel, A. Schonberg, F. Schubert, G. Bizet, D. Sostakovic, various editions of mainly piano concertos by F. Liszt. or R. Wagner´s opera. The score of Prokofiev´s Ala et Lolly Suite Scythe, op. 20 published in leading European cities contains the signature of Jaroslav Jezek and Sergei Prokofjiev. The Vienna edition of Stravinsky´s Berceuse du chant bears only Jezek´s signature, however, Les noces published also in Vienna and La sacre du printemps (Berlin) were signed by Stravinsky (together with a note "Praha 26.2.1930", which indicates that copies of both pieces were given by the author to Jezek during his visit in Prague). Two years earlier, however, Jezek bought in Paris another piece of work by Stravinsky as indicated by his note "Jaroslav Jezek, Pariz 1928" at the sheet music of Pertrouchka published in Berlin (Edition russe de musique). The copy of Pripravna skola klavirni hry pro dve ruce (Prague) by Ferd. Bayer with various notes in pencil, pen and red crayon documents probably the beginnings of Jezeks piano studies.

Sheet music of Czech composers present in Jezek´s library includes works of Bedrich Smetana (all parts of My Country), Josef Suk´s Quartett No. 2, Antonin Dvorak Slavonic Dances (Sien, 1927), Symphony in G Major No. 4 (London), New World Symphony (Leipzig), the precious American edition of Dvorak´s String Quartet in F Major (published in New York and bearing a note "Jaroslav Jezek, New York 1939", Leos Janacek´s Sinfonietta published in Vienna in 1927 and his Suite published in Berlin in Pazdirek publishing house in 1926 (both copies were signed by Jezek), compositions of Otakar Ostrcil, Zdenek Fibich and others.

Inscriptions in books of contemporary Czech writers and poets have already been mentioned. Many of these copies included friendly inscriptions pointing out to Jezek´s kind nature and friendliness. Besides inscriptions by authors we can mention e.g. the inscription of Philippe Soupault in the Czech edition of the Les Frères Durandeau (published in 1926), the inscription of Zdena Werichova in Jakob Wassermann´s book Krystof Kolumbus: don Quichote oceanu (published in 1930). Remarkable are also extensive inscriptions by Vitezslav Nezval in many copies of his works.

As far as sheet music is concerned, we can mention inscriptions such as "Milemu priteli Jaroslavu Jezkovi v pratelske oddanosti, ucte i solidarite Isa Krejci" (in Divertimento - Kasaci published in Prague by Hudebni Matice UB in 1937) or "Milemu Jezkovi Isa Krejci - vzdy oddany" (in Zpev zastupu published also by Hudebni matice in 1927). Dramatically composed inscriptions by Vitezslav Nezval can be seen in his works Jedina, Bily petrklic and Pocestny, which was published as musical inserts to the Eva magazine[5].

Jezek´s interest in novels and specialized books can be demonstrated by many notes in books and printed material - graphic signs, highlighted texts, which he set to music, etc.

The library of Jaroslav Jezek is a unique personal library system preserved in its original form and interior. It is an excellent example of a personal library of a musical composer and it is also a document of reading habits of a sensitive person. We may hope that the yet unknown facts hidden in books of Jezek´s library shall widen our knowledge about him and shed more light on his relationship to books and his way of working with books during his musical activities as well as during his less known, but important, literary review works.



[1] Information on the Blue Room history for this part of the report on Jezek´s library were used (with the author´s permission) as it indicates the nature of Jezek´s relationship to his room in Kaprova street.

[2] According to dr. Cinger´s finding, the flat was sealed "in the interest of the State" and the grandsons were not allowed to participate in making the list of the left estate. Four-member state commission was established for this purpose (Vaclav Holzknecht, Zoltan Liska, Simkovic and one Police member). The list of Jezek´s left estate prepared by this commission served as a base for the transfer of items to the National Museum - Museum of Czech Music.

[3] The collection is not organized in exactly the same was as Jezek knew it. During her work with the library, Vera Sustikova came to the conclusion that the library organization has changed and that some of the books have been moved to another place, out of their thematic area. In May 2007, Ms Jedlickova, the Conservator and Custodian of the "Blue Rooms", rearranged the library using incremental numbers.

[4] Jezek´s notes document the purchase and acquisitions of books: e.g. „Teige, compositions and letters by Smetana, 25,50; Piskacek, Analyza Me vlasti, 3,30; Sin, Nauka o harmonii, 50,0; Dolezal, Intonace, Vesely, Dejepis hudby, 8, Prazak, Ceska literatura, 10...."

[5] Richard Khel published this text already in his article „Co delal když nekomponoval". Magazine Opus musicum, Volume 24, No. 6 (1992), pg. 173-179, ISSN 0862-8505.