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Camerata Zürich, 'The Barn Owl has not Flown Away'

According to an old European superstition, it's bad luck if a barn owl lands on your house and doesn't leave. That's key to appreciating Leoš Janáček's haunting miniature "The Barn Owl has not Flown Away," part of On an Overgrown Path, a cycle of short pieces that act almost like diary entries in the Czech composer's turbulent life. Janáček lost his 20-year-old daughter to typhoid fever in 1903, about two years after his "barn owl" was composed. Bad luck indeed. But Janáček's quirky music lives on in several adaptations. Originally written for harmonium, the pieces were later transcribed for piano by the composer. This colorful string arrangement played by the Camerata Zürich is a new creation by violinist Daniel Rumler. Jagged outbursts depicting the owl alternate with folk-like, lyrical passages that lend a bittersweet call and response to this powerfully peculiar music.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.