HOW JANÁČEK LIVED

  • WORK AND LIFE ROUTINE

  • FAMILY

  • RESIDENCE

  • TRIPS AND STAYS

  • EXISTENTIAL CONDITIONS


WORK AND LIFE ROUTINE

Leoš Janáček strolling in Lužánky Park (1928) © Moravian Museum

Janáček's daily routine, rituals and habits were, of course, largely determined by the duties he had to perform at the time. He had more time to compose after his retirement from the Brno teachers' institute in 1904. Then he devoted himself "only" to his organ school and to composing. Since Janáček did not write practically anything on commission, he was not forced to compose regularly and worked more intensively only when there were "material and internal causes".

For example, around 1910, when he moved to a house in the garden of the organ school on Smetana Street, his day was as follows. He got up at six o'clock in the summer and at seven in the winter. He went for a walk to Lužánky Park and then had breakfast (together with his dog Čipera). He ate modestly, drinking mostly coffee. He taught until lunch, then rested briefly and then composed. Later in the afternoon he sat in the garden and read the afternoon issue of the newspaper and went for a walk through Brno. He had dinner early, and unless he went out to a concert or to the theatre, he would go to bed early as well. Over time, he gradually came to spend his nights in his office at the school, where he often composed all night before going to bed in the morning. (Osvald Chlubna: What Janáček was like. The manuscript is kept in the Janáček Archive of the Moravian Museum, senza sign.).


FAMILY

Leoš Janáček left his home in Hukvaldy at the age of 11. Thus, he lost direct contact with his family as a child. He searched for family support all the more as an adult. He found it in the family of his superior, the director of the teachers' institute, Emilian Schulz, whose daughter he fell in love with and later married in 1881. However, Zdeňka was raised in a completely different environment and was very much fixed on her parents, which soon caused frequent conflicts between the newlyweds, which culminated after the birth of their daughter Olga. Zdeňka returned to her parents, the couple broke all ties for some time and there was a possibility that the marriage would be divorced. However, this did not happen and Leoš and Zdeňka reconciled after some time. However, even then, life together was not very happy, especially after the death of their second-born child, Vladimír, at the mere age of two, when Janáček partly blamed Zdeňka for his death. Zdeňka's refusal to have another child, which Janáček very much desired, did not benefit the relationship either. The relatively happy life of the couple was thus built on a single connecting link - their intelligent and beautiful daughter Olga. After her death at the age of only 21, Leoš and Zdeňka became ever more alienated from each other. Moreover, Zdeňka was not willing to tolerate Janáček's love affairs (although probably only platonic) and their mutual coexistence was very tense at times. Janáček wanted to solve the situation by divorce, but Zdeňka did not want to agree to such a solution. Later, the couple signed a contract of mutual freedom, although it had no legal validity and did not calm the situation. Despite all their problems, Leoš and Zdeňka lived together until the composer's death.

Dear Zdenka!

... Stösslová sent me the rug and photographs of their children with her and me. I believe that when I'm telling you this, then you know that I am yours. I know that being a composer means often being close to the fire. With Foerster and Novák you can see that they are sitting by a cold oven. That's the way it is and things won't be so bad with you and me.

Wishing you good health!

Yours, Leoš

From a letter sent by Leoš Janáček to his wife Zdenka, 26. 1. 1928


RESIDENCE

Leoš Janáček spent his entire productive life in Brno and moved basically only once - in 1910, from an apartment in Old Brno to a newly built house in the garden of the organ school on Smetana Street. As a young man, he stayed briefly in several sublets. From 1882, he lived with Zdeňka, their daughter Olga and their housekeeper Marie Stejskalová in the courtyard tenement house at Klášterní (now Mendlovo) Square No. 2. Their second child, Vladimír, was born in this apartment, which the Janáček family lived in for almost thirty years. Unfortunately, both children also died here later (Vladimír at the age of two and Olga at the age of 21). 

The housekeeper Marie Stejskalová's memories of the flat on Klášterní náměstí are available here.

The house on Mendelovo náměstí where the Janáčeks lived from 1882-1910 (first on the left) © Moravian Museum
The house on Mendelovo náměstí where the Janáčeks lived from 1882-1910 (first on the left) © Moravian Museum

After moving to the new house in Smetana Street, the Janáček family was better off considerably. The housekeeper Marie Stejskalová's memories of the house on Smetanova Street are available here.

Leoš Janáček and his wife Zdenka in the garden of the director’s house behind the Organ School (1927) © Moravian Museum
Leoš Janáček and his wife Zdenka in the garden of the director’s house behind the Organ School (1927) © Moravian Museum

TRIPS AND STAYS

From the age of 11, Janáček was tied to Brno, from where he travelled to various places, mostly for work, but also for fun and relaxation. He regularly visited only Prague, mostly for work. After the age of 50, he generally spent part of the summer in the Luhačovice spa, but he also stayed in Karlovy Vary, Bohdaneč and Crikvenica (in present-day Croatia). From the 1890s onwards, he often visited his native village of Hukvaldy, at first especially in the summer, later throughout the year. He was also appreciative of his stays at Štrbské Pleso in Slovakia. Janáček did not travel abroad much. Exceptions are when studying in Leipzig and Vienna, three trips to Russia to see his brother František or business stays in Oettingen, Bavaria and Warsaw. After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, his foreign trips were connected mainly with festivals of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM), where he participated in the performance of his compositions (Salzburg 1923, Venice 1925, Frankfurt 1927). He also participated in productions of his works in Germany. In 1926, he made an official trip to England at the invitation of a ceremonial committee headed by Rosa Newmarch, a music critic, writer and promoter of Janáček's work.

Leoš Janáček and the ballet maestro of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Otakar Bartík, in Venice at the festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music (1925) © Moravské zemské muzeum
Leoš Janáček and the ballet maestro of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Otakar Bartík, in Venice at the festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music (1925) © Moravské zemské muzeum
Leoš Janáček surveying the port of Vlissingen on his return from England (1926) © Moravian Museum
Leoš Janáček surveying the port of Vlissingen on his return from England (1926) © Moravian Museum

Watch the unique film footage of Leoš Janáček on a trip by steamer in 1925.


EXISTENTIAL CONDITIONS

Janáček's records of the cost of cab rides © archive JZ

Janáček's financial situation changed throughout his life. At the beginning, he was a poverty-stricken boy, supported by the Old Brno Foundation and his uncle Jan Janáček. In the period from the beginning of his working life, that is, from 1876 until 1903, when he was given sick leave from the teachers' institute before retiring a year later, he was financially secured mainly by income from his pedagogical activities and only marginally by his compositions. During the years 1904-1914, however, Janáček's financial situation improved. This was mainly due to the relatively high state pension and income from the organ school. Thus, these amounts still have their origin in his teaching efforts, not in composing, although the latter aktivity also displayed an increase in income. However, in relation to the total earnings, the income from composing was negligible. Janáček's means increased considerably after the successful première of Jenůfa in Prague in 1916 and at the Court Opera in Vienna in 1918, and his financial situation continued to improve. This was due to a significant increase in fees received from the performance and publication of his works. Janáček's decision to conclude a contract with the Vienna publishing house Universal Edition also contributed to this. In 1918, the composer's compositions accounted for two thirds of all of Janáček's income.

During the 1920s, Janáček's financial situation was very favourable. Thanks to the substantial salary provided by his professorship at the Master School in Prague and the subsequent pension, and also thanks to the considerable royalties obtained from his compositions and from the awarding of state prizes, Janáček became quite wealthy at such an advanced age. Nevertheless, his standard of living had not changed much compared to previous years. His only significant expenses were associated with donations and the purchase of movable and immovable property in his native village of Hukvaldy


Text by Jiří Zahrádka. Extracts from the publication Famous Czech Composers. Published by the National Museum, 2020.