Janáček, Leoš [Leo Eugen]
- John Tyrrell
(b Hukvaldy, Moravia, 3 July 1854; d Moravská Ostrava, 12 Aug 1928). Czech composer. His reputation outside Czechoslovakia, and German-speaking countries, was first made as an instrumental composer, with a small number of chamber and orchestral pieces written alongside the operas, which he considered his main work. The balance has now been largely redressed and he is regarded not only as a Czech composer ranked with Smetana and Dvořák, but also as one of the most substantial, original, and immediately appealing opera composers of the 20th century.
Janáček was born into the Czech cantor tradition. Both his grandfather (Jiří, 1778–1848) and his father (Jiří, 1815–66) were teachers, musicians, and leading cultural figures in the poor communities they served. In 1838 Janáček’s father married Amálie Grulichová and in 1848 he moved with her and their five children to a full teacher’s post in the village of Hukvaldy in eastern Moravia. Leoš was the fourth of the eight children born there and to relieve the crowded home he was sent, when he was 11, to be a chorister at the Augustinian ‘Queen’s’ Monastery in Old Brno. Brno played a vital role in Janáček’s development; in particular the choirmaster of the monastery, Moravia’s leading composer, Pavel Křížkovský, took a keen interest in his musical education....