Leoš Janáček

Composer
Born July 3, 1854 in Hukvaldy, Czech Republic . Died Aug. 12, 1928 in Ostrava, Czech Republic .


Janacek spent his whole life in pursuit of truth, which he wished to translate as faithfully as possible into music. In this respect, he followed the advice he gave his pupils, “Look within yourselves and be true”. An isolated man and solitary genius with a difficult, demanding, almost misanthropic temperament, the work he left behind is complex and fascinatingly original. He studied at Brno, Prague, Leipzig and Vienna. An organist, teacher and choirmaster at first, Janacek started composing relatively late in his career.

From 1886 onwards, Janacek collected folk themes and composed originally written vocal works based on prosody. His respect for language led him directly towards the type of opera that was to be a great success. As from the first performance of Jenufa in Prague in 1918, Janacek’s fame travelled beyond the frontiers of his homeland. For the last ten years of his life, he composed numerous masterpieces like The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Affair, From the House of the Dead as well as sombre pages of chamber music.

An anguished man who loved passionately to the very end of his life, the composer was viscerally attached to his country, nature and animals. With subtle harmonies, an undeniable gift for melody and a folkloric charm, “Janacek did not work within any system, wrote Winton Dean. He proved in an unexpected fashion, the vitality of the tonal system at a time when it was in the interest of many to believe the contrary”. Completely free, ascribing to no particular movement, Janacek left behind a very special kind of music.

Upper right picture : Musée du Louvre.