Leoš Janáček, classical music composer

Leoš Janáček image

Leoš Janáček

Biography

Alongside Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, Leoš Janáček is considered to be one of the most forefront Czech composers of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. Born on July 3rd, 1854 to a schoolmaster and his wife, Janáček displayed an early musical talent in singing. As a child, he also developed an individual personality and strong opinions which caused numerous problems with his professors. In 1865, he enrolled as a ward of the foundation of the Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno where he primarily took part in choral singing, though occasionally played the organ and piano as well. Despite being described as a problematic pupil by his instructor, Pavel Křížkovský, Janáček was able to secure his recommendation for entry to the Prague organ school.

Beginning his studies at the Prague organ school in 1874, Janáček again caused his professors much angst with his individualist tendencies and opinionated nature. In March 1875, he criticized a performance by one of his professors in the journal Cecilie, which led to his expulsion from the school. However, making amends, Janáček was allowed to return and graduated with the best marks in his class later in the year. Following his graduation, he returned to Brno where he earned a living as a music teacher. In 1879, he enrolled in the Leipzig Conservatory to study piano, organ and composition. Dissatisfied with his teachers, he left Leipzig after only five months for Vienna. His tenure at the Vienna Conservatory was also short-lived, leaving in the summer of 1880 and once again returning to Brno. After his return, he was appointed to the post of director of the organ school which he held until 1919.

Initially inclined to study piano and organ, Janáček turned to composition while he served as choirmaster of the Svatopluk Artisan's Assoccation between 1873 and 1876. Likely an impetus for Janáček's interest in compositions was his friendship with fellow Czech composer Antonín Dvořák whom he had met in 1874. Janáček admired Dvořák's music and was greatly influenced by him (and Smetana) in his early works. By the mid-1880s Janáček began to compose more regularly. He also began to collect and study folk music which, like Bartók after him, became a central component of his compositional efforts after composing his opera Šárka in 1887-88.

Janáček's life took a dramatic turn with the turning of the century. In 1902, he took his daughter, Olga, to Russia with him. However, she became ill and Janáček brought her back to Brno. During this time, he was working on the opera Jenůfa and poured his feelings over his ill daughter into the work. When Olga died in February 1903, he dedicated the opera to her memory. Jenůfa was premiered the following year in Brno to moderate success. Nevertheless, Janáček had larger aspirations for his work and yearned for greater recognition. He submitted Jenůfa to the Prague opera but it was initially refused. These events, however, only marked the beginning of a troublesome decade of both personal and professional difficulties for Janáček. Some of his compositions he destroyed; others went unfinished. Yet, he continued to compose and in 1916, Jenůfa, with some revisions, was produced in Prague to great acclaim.

The success of Jenůfa was the turning point in his career. He had developed his own unique mature style of composition influenced by his studies into folk music and quite different from the Romantic influences that held sway over the Czech musical scene in the early 20th century. Following Jenůfa, other successful works followed including the operas Kát'a Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, and Sinfonietta. His reputation continued to grow and in his later years he commanded an international reputation, even joining the ranks of Arnold Schönberg and Paul Hindemith as members of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1927. In August 1928, during a trip to Štramberk, Janáček caught a chill, which developed into pneumonia.  On the 12th of that month, he died in Ostrava. He was given a large public funeral and buried in Brno.


Composer Title Date Action
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters" 03/30/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, From the Street 04/22/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, From the Street 04/28/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, Our evening 01/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, A blown-away leaf 01/14/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, Come along with us 01/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, The Virgin of Frydek 01/08/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, They chattered like swallows 01/25/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, My word stop 01/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček On an Overgrown Path I, Good night 01/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Pohadka (Fairy Tale) 01/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Moravian Folk Dances 01/17/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Sonata for Violin and Piano 01/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, From the Street 08/05/2010 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Sonata for Violin and Piano 12/24/2010 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Sonata for Violin and Piano 11/22/2011 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Sonata for Violin and Piano 03/29/2012 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, From the Street 09/12/2013 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček Sonata for Violin and Piano 12/03/2013 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters" 01/07/2014 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček In the Mists 11/06/2014 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 1 "Kreutzer Sonata" 07/09/2015 Play Add to playlist
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters" 05/04/2017 Play Add to playlist