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Classical Composers A-Z: Leos Janacek

Peter Wintersgill summarises the life of the composer Leos Janacek, the composer of a number of successful operas which include Jenufa and The Cunning Little Vixen.

Born
3rd July, 1854, in Hukavaldy, East Moravia

Father
Jiri, choir master

Mother
Auralic

Childhood
Entered Brno Monastery at 11 as a choirboy

Adolescence
Stayed on at Brno Training College at 18 as a teacher, then moved on to Prague Organ School at 20.

Adult Life
Married Adenka, an ex-pupil, in 1881. Spent a year studying at Leipzig and Vienna, then returned to Brno and founded the Organ School there in 1881.

He was very keen on Bohemian folk music and speech rhythms. Used to listen to speech as he travelled about and note down the rhythms.

Operas were his forte, the first big success being Jenufa (1904), when he was 50. Others were Mr. Broucek’s Escursions (1917), The Cunning Little Vixen (1923) and From the House of the Dead (1928).

He also wrote orchestral and choral works, e.g. Sinfonietta (1926), the Glagolitic Mass (1926), Lachian Dances (1890), also piano and chamber music and songs.

He died on the 12th August, 1928, in Ostrava, aged 74, of pneumonia and heart failure.

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