Janacek by Mirka Zemanova - review by Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton

A New Human World



John Murray 352pp £25 order from our bookshop

Mirka Zemanova’s biography of Janacek is a painstaking account of a painful and unglamorous life. Zemanova has thoroughly researched the sources, and is scrupulously fair towards her subject, who, it has to be said, comes off as a result rather badly. Indeed, the reader is struck by the extraordinary dissonance between the composer and the man. Janacek produced pure, truthful music, which seems to overflow with tenderness and compassion. Yet he led a life of weakness and subterfuge, treating his wife with relentless cruelty and idealising her rivals in a way that showed respect neither for her nor for them.

The self-deceived attachment to Kamila Stosslova, to which we owe some of the most glorious music ever composed, is especially disturbing when recounted in Zemanova's strictly matter-of-fact tone. This ordinary young woman, flattered by the attentions of the ageing composer, had neither the strength to keep Janacek out of her

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