Janacek by Mirka Zemanova
A Composer's Life

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Mirka Zemanova

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Mirka Zemanova, a Czech musicologist and translator, is the editor of Janacek's Uncollected Essays on Music. She lives in London.
 
Published January 1, 2002 by John Murray. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction

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