Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Janáček, Leoš from Philip's Encyclopedia

Czech composer. His compositions include orchestral works, such as Taras Bulba (1918) and the Sinfonietta (1926), two string quartets (1923, 1928), and the cantata The Eternal Gospel (1914). He also wrote several operas, including Jenufa (1904), The Cunning Little Vixen (1924), and The Makropoulos Case (1926).


Summary Article: Janáček, Leoš from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Czech composer. He became director of the Conservatory at Brno in 1919 and professor at the Prague Conservatory in 1920. His music, highly original and influenced by Moravian folk music, includes arrangements of folk songs, operas (Jenůfa, (1904), The Cunning Little Vixen (1924)), and the choral Glagolitic Mass (1926).

Janáček was the son of a poor schoolmaster. He became a choirboy at the monastery of the Austin Friars in Brno and later earned his living as a music teacher and went to the Organ School in Prague to study. He conducted various choral societies, made some desultory studies at Leipzig, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, and in 1881 returned to Brno to found an organ school there. He had meanwhile become involved with Moravian folk music, collecting, harmonizing, and performing folk songs; their influence is heard in his first mature work, the opera Jenůfa, begun in 1894 and staged in Brno in 1904. Although it was a success, wider recognition did not come until the its production in Prague in 1916, which was followed by a production in Germany.

The last ten years of Janáček's life saw a great burst of creative activity, with the composition of many new works that are full of exuberance, expressive power, and characteristic jagged rhythms. The opera The Excursions of Mr Brouček was premiered in Prague in 1920, and the following year the rhapsody after Gogol, Taras Bulba, was given in Brno. Much of his astonishing later music, in particular the opera Káta Kabanová (1921) and the second string quartet Intimate Letters (1928), was inspired by his unrequited love for Kamila Stösslová, to whom he wrote constant letters during the last decade of his life. Many scenes in his operas, as well as the song cycle The Diary of a Young Man Who Disappeared (1921), seem to have an epistolatory basis; they are often brief vignettes in which the characters communicate with one another in a confiding, confessional manner.

He made close studies of folk song and speech, which he applied to his vocal music; speech rhythms were particularly important to Janáček in the portrayal of a character's mood. His vocal music often reflects this, and moves fluently between neutral speech-dominated patterns and moments of intense emotion and expressive power. Although he was not an orthodox religious believer, Janáček's music suggests an articulate pantheism, with a profound sympathy for the human condition and an ecstatic celebration of the natural world and the part of a creator in it.

WorksOpera nine, including Jenůfa (1904), The Excursions of Mr Brouček (1920), Káta Kabanová (1921), The Cunning Little Vixen (1924), The Makropoulos Case (1926), and From the House of the Dead (1930).

ChoralGlagolitic Mass for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra (1926), numerous choral works, including Rikadla (1927).

Orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba (on Gogol, 1918, performed 1921), Sinfonietta for orchestra (1926), concertino for piano and chamber orchestra (1925), Capriccio for piano left hand and ensemble (1926).

Chamber two string quartets (one on Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata, 1923, no. 2 Intimate Letters, 1928), wind sextet Mládí/Youth (1924); By an Overgrown Path (for piano, 1901–08); The Diary of a Young Man who Disappeared (1921) for voices and piano.

quotations

Janáček, Leoš

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Janáček, Leoš
Philip's Encyclopedia

1854-1928 Czech composer. His compositions include orchestral works, such as Taras Bulba (1918) and the Sinfonietta (1926), two string...

Full text Article Janácek, Leos (1854 - 1928)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

He studied at the Leipzig and Vienna conservatoires and became professor of composition at Brno conservatoire in 1919. He was...

Full text Article Janáček, Leoš
Chambers Biographical Dictionary

1854-1928 Czech composer Born in Hukvaldy, Moravia, at the age of 16 he was choirmaster in Brno, where he settled after studying at Prague and Leipzi

See more from Credo