Composer. The son of a choirmaster, he founded the Organ Conservatory of Brno in 1881 and much of his life was devoted to teaching and scholarly research. Janacek was 50 when his first major composition, the opera "Jenufa" (1904), appeared; and it was not until that opera was staged in Prague in 1916 (when he was 62) that he enjoyed widespread success. This stirred him into a real sunburst of creativity and in his last decade Janacek produced one masterpiece after another: the symphonic poem "Taras Bulba" (1918); the song-cycle "Diary of One Who Disappeared" (1919); the delightful wind sextet "Youth" (1924); two string quartets (1924, 1928); the brilliant Sinfonietta (1926); the Glagolitic Mass (1927); and what many consider the summit of his achievement, the operas "Katya Kabanova" (1921), "The Cunning Little Vixen" (1924), "The Makropolous Affair" (1926), and "From the House of the Dead" (premiered in 1930, after his death). His style was highly original in melody and rhythm, combining folk-like idioms with more modern techniques, and the effect is of enormous charm and vitality. Janacek didn't confine his second youth to music paper. He was a feisty champion of new music (he protested the 1927 banning of Berg's opera "Wozzeck" in Prague), and quick to challenge his detractors. When a critic dismissed his Mass as "the work of a pious old man", he replied with a furious postcard: "I'm an agnostic, neither pious nor old!" He had several May-December affairs and was hopelessly infatuated with Kamila Stasslova, a married woman 40 years his junior. Over 700 of his love letters to her survive, and some believe she was the inspiration behind the belated flowering of his art. In late July 1928 Janacek took the Stasslova family to his birthplace in Hukvaldy for a holiday. Stasslova's young son got lost playing in the woods, and the composer helped search for him in the rain. The boy was found safe several hours later, but Janacek caught a chill that developed into a fatal case of pneumonia. His funeral in Brno marked a day of national mourning. Today Janacek is regarded as the greatest Czech composer of the 20th Century.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards