Composer, teacher, conductor, pianist, writer and folklorist Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was one of the 20th century’s most remarkable creators of music. Even though he belongs more to the generation of Antonín Dvořák in terms of his date of birth, his compositions lie among the most progressive works of music created during the last century. At the age of almost seventy, Janáček rightfully stood shoulder to shoulder with composers one or even two generations younger, such as Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Igor Stravinsky. Even though he became one of the most popular composers towards the end of his life, Janáček maintained his connection with Brno. He had a close relationship with this city, not only because he spent the majority of his existence here, but also because he contributed to the significant development of Brno cultural life thanks to his tireless organizational, conducting and pedagogical activities, and thus influenced it for many years beyond his own lifetime. If we add the fact that the majority of the composer´s works had their premiere here in Brno, it is obvious how close the symbiosis was between the composer and his town.
Leoš Janáček came to Brno from his native Hukvaldy in 1865 as an eleven-year-old boy. His father sent him to the foundation of the Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas in Old Brno. At that time, enlightened abbot Cyril Napp was the head of the abbey and personalities such as the composer Pavel Křížkovský, the founder of genetics Georg Mendel and the philosopher, poet and journalist František Matouš Klácel were active there. Musically gifted boys who were accepted to the foundation were called “blues” according to the light blue uniform they wore. They received an excellent musical education at the abbey so that they could take part in its productions and concerts. Later, Janáček continued his studies at a German secondary school which focused on humanities and sciences, and then at the Brno teaching institute. After passing the school-leaving exam in 1874, he remained at the institute as an assistant teacher. Aside from this, he was also engaged in activities as a choirmaster and conductor at the Svatopluk Artisan’s Association (1873-76) and at the Beseda brněnská Philharmonic Society (1876-88). During his era, Beseda brněnská evolved into a large cantata choir with which Janáček could perform works such as Mozart´s Requiem, Beethoven´s Missa Solemnis and Dvořák´s Stabat Mater. At that time, the young Janáček had already started composing and he began to drift away from the career path of a teacher. He strove to deepen his musical education further. In 1874 he was accepted as a student at the Prague Organ School. In 1879-80 he studied briefly at the Leipzig and Vienna conservatories but found that, as he said himself, “there was nothing else to learn”.