Leoš Janáček

Janáček was a Czech composer who lived from 1854 to 1928.  Let’s take a brief look at the first part of his life this week.  Born into a lower middle class family, his parents were Jiří (1815–1866) and Amalie (née Grulichová) Janáčková (1819–1884). His father was a schoolmaster and wanted Leoš to follow in his footsteps. However, he recognized his son’s musical talent and instead in 1865 Leoš became a ward of the Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno where he sang and played the piano. Jiří passed away the following year.

In 1874 he enrolled in the Prague Organ School. His intention had been to continue studying piano and organ. But his focus shifted to composition. He had his difficulties in his studies, as many intelligent artists do. He was expelled from school at one point but eventually allowed to return and finished in 1875 at the top of his class.

After school he did go on to teach. While not a schoolmaster like his father, Janáček did teach music at Brno’s Teachers Institute. It is here that he met his future wife, Zdenka Schulzová. She was his student and the daughter of the school’s director. He continued to study himself and spent time at the Leipzig Conservatory and the Vienna Conservatory.  He left Brno in 1880 and returned in 1881 to marry Zdenka.

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