Leoš Janáček – a classical music composer with a distinctly Czech style

Леош Яначек, фото: Моравский краеведческий музей в Брно

July 3rd marked 160 years since the birth of Leoš Janáček - a classical music composer with a distinctly Czech style. To mark the anniversary Radio Prague is offering listeners a selection from his greatest work -the opera Jenufa.

Born on July 3, 1854 in the small town of Hukvaldy in Moravia, Leoš Janáček showed exceptional musical talent from an early age and as a young boy he became a choir singer at the prestigious Augustinian Monastery in Brno.

He received a formal musical education in Brno and later studied at the College of Organ Studies in Prague to become a music teacher. In 1878 he spent some time in Vienna to improve his skills and upon his return founded and led the Organ School and Conservatory in Brno.

In 1896 he undertook his first visit to Russia and his studies of Russian literature influenced his later works (Káťa Kabanová and the rhapsody Taras Bulba). However, it was his love of Moravian folk music that had the greatest influence on his work leading him to create a musical style of his own, derived from folk elements and the inflections of his native language, which found its best expression in his greatest work, the opera Jenůfa (Její pastorkyňa).

Leoš Janáček | Photo: Moravské zemské muzeum Brno
With the Prague performance of his opera Jenůfa in 1915 he became nationally and internationally recognized. The bulk of his best creative work was composed in the last 15 years of his life, reflecting his patriotism and pride in being able to contribute to the cultural heritage of independent Czechoslovakia.

In 1925 he received an honorary degree from the University of Brno and on the occasion of his seventieth birthday a cycle of his operas was performed in the Moravian metropolis. Two years after his death, in 1930, an extensive cycle of his operas was performed throughout Czechoslovakia.

Today Janáček enjoys ever greater popularity with music-loving audiences the world over.

Janáček’s most important works are the opera Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa), Věc Makropulos (1926; The Makropulos Case), Z mrtvého domu (1930; From the House of the Dead ), the two one-act satirical operas Výlet pana Broučka do Mĕsíce (Mr. Brouček’s Excursion to the Moon) and Výlet pana Broučka do XV stoleti (Mr. Brouček’s Excursion to the 15th Century), both performed in Prague in 1920, and the comic opera Příhody Lišky Bystroušky (1924; The Cunning Little Vixen).