In 1874 Janáček became friends with Antonín Dvořák, and began composing in a relatively traditional romantic style. After his opera Šárka (1887–1888), his style absorbed elements of Moravian and Slovak folk music.
His musical assimilation of the rhythm, pitch contour and inflections of normal Czech speech helped create the very distinctive vocal melodies of his opera Jenůfa (1904), whose 1916 success in Prague was to be the turning point in his career. In Jenůfa, Janáček developed and applied the concept of “speech tunes” to build a unique musical and dramatic style quite independent of “Wagnerian” dramatic method. He studied the circumstances in which “speech tunes” changed, the psychology and temperament of speakers and the coherence within speech, all of which helped render the dramatically truthful roles of his mature operas, and became one of the most significant markers of his style. Janáček took these stylistic principles much farther in his vocal writing than Modest Mussorgsky, and thus anticipates the later work of Béla Bartók. The stylistic basis for his later works originates in the period of 1904–1918, but Janáček composed the majority of his output – and his best known works – in the last decade of his life.
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