For most of his life, Janáček pursued his musical ambitions in relative anonymity. Living in Brno, the provincial capital of Moravia, Janáček worked as a choir director, a teacher, an organist and a folk-music researcher, all the while continuing to write music.
But it was not until he was 65, when the Prague National Opera finally staged his opera, Jenufa, that Janáček began receiving national and international recognition. His growing fame – together with a newfound love interest – unleashed in the composer a new burst of creativity: many of his best-known works were thus conceived in the final decade of his life.
Mládí or Youth was written in celebration of the composer’s 70th birthday. A musical memoir, it recalls the composer’s early days, drawing on the sounds and traditions of his much-loved homeland.
The work’s opening movement makes use of what Janáček called ‘speech melodies’, with the main melody following the contours of the phrase “Youth, golden youth”. The second movement is a set of variations, while the third movement exploits a tune also used by the composer in his March of the Blue Boys. The final movement returns to the opening themes, celebrated both youth and the lasting spirit of youthfulness.