Cover image for Janáček
Zemanová, Mirka.
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Boston : Northeastern University Press, [2002]

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xiv, 352 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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ML410.J18 Z46 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Leos Janacek (1854-1928), who wrote such highly acclaimed operas as The Cunning Little Vixen, Jenufa, and Katya Kabanova, as well as choral, chamber, and orchestral pieces, was one of the most original, complex, and appealing artists of the twentieth century. Inspired by the rhythmical and melodic strains of Czech speech patterns and Moravian folk songs, Janacek used unconventional composition principles to create a new musical style that blends tremendous energy and lyricism, passion and tenderness. His music continues to enchant listeners, and his operas, in particular, address universal human emotions and moods that remain strikingly relevant for today's audiences. While Janacek's works are performed frequently on stages around the world, little is known about the composer himself. In this biography, the first to appear in English in over two decades, Mirka Zemanova draws on previously unavailable Czech-language sources, memoirs, and letters, including Janacek's intimate correspondence with Kamila Stoesslova, his great love and sometimes reluctant muse. Zemanova depicts a shy, lonely, moody, and self-doubting man with a fiery temper and an intensely independent and proud spirit. She also reveals a man who glorified women in his operas but treated them cruelly in his own life. The author tells the fascinating story of an isolated artist who was virtually unknown outside of his native Moravia until his early sixties, when the triumphant Prague premiere of Jenufa brought Janacek international fame. She sheds light on the creative surge in his final years, attributing his remarkable late flowering to the success in Prague, his fierce patriotic pride in the newly independent Czechoslovakia at the end of World War I, and, perhaps most of all, his passionate attachment to Kamila Stoesslova. From the time they met, when Janacek was sixty-three and she was twenty-five, to his death eleven years later, Kamila held the composer under her spell and inspired many of his late works. Zemanova also thoroughly chronicles Janacek's ardent courtship of and tempestuous marriage to Zdenka Schulz, his extramarital love affairs and infatuations, and the tragic deaths of his two children.

Author Notes

Mirka Zemanova, a Czech musicologist and translator

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Moravian to the core, Leos Janacek (1854^-1928) drew inspiration from speech patterns and musical material from local folk songs for his chamber and orchestral as well as vocal music. His marriage at 27 to Zdenka Schulz, then 16, was a mismatch, but only at 63 did he begin an affair with Kamila Stosslova, then 25, who inspired him during his last years. Best-known for his operas Jenufa, The Cunning Little Vixen, Kat'a Kabanova, and The Makropulos Affair, Janacek initially had much trouble getting Jenufa produced in Prague, the Czech musical capital. But when the state of Czechoslovakia was formed after World War I, the public embraced Janacek's music. Except for some detailed musical descriptions of major works, Zemanova concentrates on how the affair with Kamila drove Janacek to compose his best music; she uses his letters to Kamila extensively to expose the psyche of an isolated man with a fiery temper. Insightfully explicating Janacek and his world, Zemanova puts his life and music in historical context. Alan Hirsch

Publisher's Weekly Review

Czech composer Leos Janacek (1854-1928), unlike such prodigies as Mozart and Schubert, came into his own, creatively, very late in what was until then a quite unremarkable life, lived way off the musical map in provincial Moravia. He married a young piano pupil while he was still struggling to make ends meet, and although it seemed she never really understood the nature of his genius, he remained tied to her for life a source of considerable conflict when he fell in love with Kamila Stosslova, a woman nearly 40 years younger, in his early 60s. It was this improbable affair (which seems to have been entirely platonic) that inspired most of the work by which Jan cek continues to be best known: all the operas after Jenufa his first great success the Sinfonietta, the Glagolithic Mass and the passionately emotional string quartets. Zemanova, a Czech-born musicologist based in London, has done an admirable job of elucidating this odd relationship, relying on newly available translations of some of the correspondence between the pair, and her account of the works, particularly some of the earlier and lesser-known ones, is solidly satisfying. Above all, she has delivered an empathetic and even-handed account of a decidedly prickly but remarkable personality, one who achieved world recognition by dint of dogged determination, and a fixed belief in his own unique approach to music as a sort of heightened speech. Illus. not seen by PW. (Sept. 16). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

A Czech musicologist now living in England and the editor of Janacek's Uncollected Essays on Music (1989), Zemanova did considerable research in materials recently made available to provide a detailed portrait of a contradictory life. The author traces Janacek's career as a trajectory rising slowly from his work as a composer, teacher, and writer almost unknown outside his native Moravia until, at the age of 62, he rocketed into worldwide recognition, first in neighboring Bohemia with the performance of his first important opera Jen^D:oufa (1904), then in Prague (1916), and then in Europe and the US. His most popular and distinctive works are from his final 12 years. At the same time Zemanova chronicles in some detail the composer's emotional life and his personal and professional relationships, which followed a drastic ebb and flow throughout his life. A very readable, sometimes gripping account of Janacek's turmoils and triumphs. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. W. K. Kearns emeritus, University of Colorado at Boulder



Beginnings (1854-1874) `Ihave one great joy,' wrote Janácek in 1916. `Moravia by herself can give me all the inspiration I need. So rich are her sources.' What was it that provided such a wealth and variety of sources in Moravia, the small Central European province where Janácek was born, and where he lived all his life? One of the twin provinces that made up the former Crown Lands of Bohemia and today form the Czech Republic, Moravia differs profoundly from her larger sister, Bohemia. And her role in Czech history has often been overlooked. `The Czechs were always the head, and we remained the tail of their kingdom,' declared Karel the Elder of Zerotín. A Moravian nobleman, a shrewd politician and an intellectual, he accurately described Moravia's status within the kingdom of Bohemia in 1620, after the fateful battle of the White Mountain which brought the country under Austrian rule. The historical and cultural background of the two provinces is complex. Bohemia's name has always had a certain resonance: Anne of Bohemia married Richard II of England, son of the Black Prince; in the eighteenth century, Bohemian musicians were known and admired abroad, as were Bohemian craftsmen; and the names of the great nineteenth-century Bohemian composers Smetana and Dvorák need no introduction to music lovers. But what of Moravia? When the kingdom of Bohemia was established in the tenth century, Moravia ceased to be the political centre of the surrounding lands. Yet in the years that followed, Czechs from Moravia created works which belong to and characterize the entire Czech nation? And in the nineteenth century, Moravia - then still a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - was the birthplace of some of Europe's finest scientists, thinkers, artists and musicians: Sigmund Freud; the founder of genetics J.G. Mendel; the philosopher and first Czech president T.G. Masaryk; the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha; the father of phenomenology Edmund Husserl; the architect Adolf Loos; the writer Robert Musil; and, among the most celebrated musicians, LeoÜ Janácek. Two other composers of genius, Mahler and Martinu, were born near the Czech-Moravian border. Great men and women are born without much reference to geography; what is significant is the environment in which they are nurtured. What were the traditions these luminaries encountered in their youth? Today, Moravia covers an area about two-thirds the size of Switzerland, bordering Poland in the north, Slovakia in the east, Austria in the south and Bohemia in the west. Yet in the time of Charlemagne this future `tail of the kingdom' governed a large territory, including much of Bohemia and Slovakia, with frontiers extending to Lake Balaton and the Hungarian Plain. This state, known as the Great Moravian Empire, was established in the ninth century. In AD 863, at the request of Duke Rastislav of Great Moravia, the Greek brothers Cyril (Constantine) and Methodius arrived to disseminate Christianity throughout the Empire. Cyril later developed the first Slavonic alphabet, glagolice , and translated the Bible and other religious writings into the earliest written Slavonic language, known as Old Slavonic. The arrival of the Greek missionaries also counteracted the efforts of the German Empire to convert Rastislav's lands to Roman Catholicism: in Bohemia, Bavarian priests were active in the second quarter of the ninth century. And so, geographically and historically, Moravia became the crossroads where Eastern and Western cultures met. This was to be of great significance for her culture in general and, above all, for her folk music. Eventually the old Slavonic (Byzantine) ritual was suppressed in favour of Catholic (Latin) worship. Disputes among Rastislav's sons followed, and by the beginning of the tenth century the Great Moravian Empire disintegrated. Slovakia was seized by the Magyars, and Bohemia became the dominant political centre of a new state which incorporated Moravia. Further turmoil within the Czech state meant that in 1182 Moravia was established as a margraviate, but the separation was short-lived: by the end of the century the territory was once again part of the Czech kingdom. In the four centuries or so that preceded the Habsburg domination, both provinces made vigorous economic progress under enlightened monarchs from different dynasties. In the fifteenth century religious strife gave birth to the Hussite movement, one of the strongest Reformation movements in Europe. In 1526, though, the Czech crown went to the Hapsburg dynasty; in 1620, Bohemia lost the battle of the White Mountain and ceased to exist as an independent kingdom. The Crown Lands remained under Austrian rule for almost three hundred years, with devastating effects on their economy, culture and language. Before the religious wars of the fifteenth century exhausted the country, Moravia was not a backward province. There was a greater density of towns than in Bohemia; Moravia's silver mines, though less rich than the Bohemian ones, nonetheless greatly added to her wealth. The plains of central Moravia had always been the region's granary; there were vineyards in the south and deep forests in the mountainous north, where forestry, paper, coal and steel industries were to develop. Long-established merchants' routes ran from Moravia's southern border with Austria to the Polish frontier in the north and provided a link for trade between the Mediterranean and the Baltic. But politically Moravia never dominated the kingdom, although the Great Moravian Empire was clearly the nucleus of the future Czech state. Nevertheless, during the Czech National Revival in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Moravian cities of Brno and Olomouc were its most important centres outside Bohemia. In the capital, Brno, various Moravian-born luminaries were active - the folk-song collector FrantiÜek SuÜil, the composer Pavel Krízkovský and, in Brno's Old Town, the philosopher, poet, philosopher and journalist F.J. Klácel. And although the local clergy supported the conservative Moravian separatist party - with its old-fashioned ideology of tribal autonomy and `purity of the Moravian nation' - once Czech grammar schools were established throughout Moravia after 1867, a new, progressive movement, Young Moravia, was formed. Its aims were realistic; it was close to the radical mladocech (`Young Czech') faction of the National Party, and had ties with the Czech capital Prague. Unlike Bohemia, Moravia retained for centuries a great variety of regional costumes, dialects and accents. The geographical and cultural multiplicity was also reflected in a variety of temperaments, and what the outstanding Moravian folklorist FrantiÜek BartoÜ calls `tribal spirit'; there are considerable differences between the individual regions. Although folk costumes are now only worn at festivals, many linguistic and tribal characteristics continue unchanged. The handsome, impulsive, fiery people of Moravian Slovakia, for example, known for their brave and jealous disposition, stand out all the more when compared to their slower, more prudent neighbours from the Haná region, whose placidity belies their humour. Those from the region of ValaÜsko and Dolnácko share some of the Moravian Slovaks' temperament, while those from LaÜsko have some features in common with the neighbouring Poles. And, as BartoÜ stresses, `the entire tribal temperament resounded in song'. There are good historical reasons why folk-song in Moravia has come to reflect so accurately the province's spirit. Before the Czech National Revival, written Czech was barely kept alive, and spoken Czech survived largely only among the peasantry. With no other means of expression, much of the nation's creativity was concentrated on music-making of all kinds: and in folk-song, language and music came together. In Moravia this resulted in poetic texts of great beauty, which reflect not only the many facets of tribal character, but also the diversity of landscape and climate. The deep `black' forests, the green groves, the vineyards, orchards and gardens, the flowers and birds of Moravia all crop up in thousands of folk-songs. Moravian folk music, with its rhythmical and melodic richness, depicts an exuberance of life and a depth of feeling that were to enchant Janácek, and which are mirrored in his own work in a variety of ways. Janácek was born in the hamlet of Hukvaldy, in the region of LaÜsko which lies on the banks of the river Ostravice in northern Moravia; LaÜsko touches Czech Silesia and the industrial district of Ostrava in the north, and the picturesque Beskydy mountains in the south. `A land of beauty, a quiet people, its dialect as soft as though you were cutting butter', Janácek wrote of it at the end of his life. The family surname, a derivative of Jan [John], was first documented near the Silesian town of TeÜín in the second half of the seventeenth century; a branch of the family later moved to the small town of Frýdek, where Janácek's grandfather was born. He was the first family member to settle in LaÜsko, in the small, entirely Czech-speaking village of Albrechticky; his son Jirí, Janácek's father, arrived in Hukvaldy in 1848. Hukvaldy is one of the communities which make up the easternmost part of the historical Czech territory in Moravia. For centuries, many different influences competed with each other in that area, and Silesian, German, Polish, Slovak and Hungarian cultures all left their mark; the name of the neighbouring region, ValaÜsko, derives from the district of Wallachia in Romania, from which successions of settlers had come. A few houses, an inn, a church and a school form the hamlet below the ruins of Hukvaldy Castle, whose name commemorates Arnold de Huckeswage, its thirteenth-century warlord; among subsequent owners were two Hussite captains. After a series of sieges in the seventeenth century, the estate was the scene of a major peasant rebellion in 1695. In 1762 much of the castle and its archives were destroyed by fire; after another fire in 1820 the castle was left uninhabited. By 1848 the small, impoverished community at its foot had only some 570 inhabitants, whose principal occupations were weaving, sheep rearing and forestry. The school was a former manorial ice-store; its dilapidated building also housed the schoolmaster and his family. Janácek's father, who took up the post that year, was himself the son of a schoolmaster; as Janácek's first biographer Vladimir Helfert wrote, Grandfather Jill was `an extraordinarily striking figure', with `many characteristics which later appear in his grandson LeoÜ': a talent for music, enterprise, industry, and an explosive temperament. In the family lineage, as Helfert pointed out, he signified a turning point: `after three generations of weavers there suddenly appears in him ... the founder of [the family's] kantor and musical tradition'. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the tradition of the village schoolmaster-musician, the kantor , was still very strong in Bohemia and Moravia. The Latin equivalent, cantor , denotes the leader of the singing in church, but even in present-day colloquial Czech, kantor is still used to describe a teacher. In the nineteenth century, though poorly paid, these schoolmasters enjoyed high social status, respect and indeed affection, especially in poor rural communities. Apart from the priest, the kantor was often the only educated man in the village. He would read and answer letters for the illiterate and mediate for them with the authorities; he would teach not only the usual syllabus but also music - singing, piano, organ and violin - and act as church organist and choirmaster. He would found reading clubs, disseminate new agricultural and gardening methods, and make musical instruments; sometimes he would even coach the children of the local nobility. The kantors also helped to keep Czech culture alive. Grandfather Jirí was `a passionate musician [and] an especially skilful organist': his son Vincenc wrote in the family memoirs that his improvised preludes easily grew into fugues which `he executed in a masterly fashion'. A keen singer, he `played and sang with such emotion that tears would run from his eyes'. But he was also gregarious and an excellent raconteur, so he was popular, even though he was prone to terrible outbursts of rage and violence, particularly during his occasional bouts of drinking. At such times, wrote Vincenc, his placid and quiet wife - Janácek's grandmother Anna - was `the golden pillar ... against which the whole family would lean'. There were six children in Jirí's family, two daughters and four sons. Two of the boys, including LeoÜ's father Jill, became teachers, the other two were chosen for the priesthood. Of the last two, Jan - who would become LeoÜ's favourite uncle - was also a good musician; Josef was an accomplished scholar, fluent in five languages, but bitter and somewhat eccentric. Vincenc eventually took over Jiri's post; the family memoirs and village chronicles that he produced towards the end of his life foreshadow the literary gift his nephew was later to show. Grandfather Jirí taught all his sons the piano, organ, and singing. His third son, also called Jiri, later attended the teacher's training course run by the Piarist order of clerics in the town of Príbor, and then, aged only 16, became an assistant teacher in a small Silesian village. `Here' writes Vincenc, a `little orphan [actually illegitimate] Pavel Krízkovský attached himself to the new teacher. The child's mother begged Jill to teach the boy music and singing, as indeed he did, and he later found Pavel a choral scholarship at the Church of the Holy Ghost in Opava. Thus Jirí Janácek laid the foundations of Pavel's standing as a composer, a service Pavel later repaid to Jirí's son, LeoÜ.' Pavel was to become Father Pavel Krízkovský, a renowned composer and LeoÜ Janácek's teacher. Jirí Janácek inherited from his father his `outstanding teaching ability', and also his love of gardening; like all the Janáceks, he was `quick-tempered but also tenacious'. In 1835 he was appointed kantor in Príbor, largely because of his music skills. Three years later he married there the 18-year-old Amalie Grulichová, a weaver's daughter, and for the next ten years they lived fairly comfortably, although Jirí was only an assistant teacher. But in 1848 nearby Hukvaldy was in need of a new schoolmaster, and so Jirí, Amalie and their five children moved into the dilapidated schoolhouse there. Continue... Excerpted from Janácek by Mirka Zemanová Copyright (c) 2002 by Mirka Zemanová Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xi
Guide to Pronunciationp. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1. Beginningsp. 6
2. Prague and Abroadp. 24
3. Back in Brnop. 41
4. Return to Sourcesp. 60
5. Crystallization of Stylep. 71
6. Successes and Obstaclesp. 87
7. Recognitionp. 116
8. The Indian Summer Beginsp. 152
9. The Unbending Spiritp. 184
10. The Final Masterpiecesp. 223
Appendix Janacek's letters to Kamila Stosslovap. 263
Notesp. 265
Bibliographyp. 327
Indexp. 336