Death of a vital musical authority

Death of a vital musical authority


norman lebrecht

October 04, 2018

The great Janacek authority John Tyrell died this morning. He was 76.

John was the supreme source on Leos Janacek, author of the definitive two-volume biography and the vital correspondence with Kamila Stosslova. He knew all there was to know about Czech music and he shared his knowledge willingly.

Born in what is now Zimbabwe, he studied at Cape Town, Oxford and Janacek’s town, Brno.

He is an irreplaceable source.



  • Sue says:

    This man did great work, along with Australian Charles Mackerras before him, to restore Janacek to his rightful place.

    • Dixie Sellers says:

      I worked and lived with Sir Charles and Lady Mackerras. John Tyrell was a frequent guest and collaborator. D. Sellers

    • David Schildknecht says:

      Yes, it always struck me as amazing that two Anglophones accomplished perhaps more than any other people internationally to establish the reputation and assist in the understanding of this composer who was such an arch Slavophile and so tied literally as well as emotionally to his Moravian homeland. Or might I have a different perspective if I weren’t myself an Anglophone but instead a citizen of the Czech Republic?

      • David Marecek says:

        You’re completely right! We, in the Czech Republic, have deep admiration and respect to both gentleman. John Tyrell was a beautiful personality and brilliant mind. And his Czech was excellent! He will be missed very much but he made himself a living part of Czech culture forever.
        David Marecek, CEO, Czech Philharmonic

  • Victoria B says:

    JT, as he was always known to us, was also an inspirational teacher. I took many courses with him at Nottingham University and he was a great tutor. Tough at times, but always committed and energetic, as well as deeply brilliant.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    My impression from visiting Prague and talking to Czechs-not in Czech- that Janacek is more popular in the UK than in his native country. There Smetana and Dvorak are more esteemed?

  • Mikel Toms says:

    Oh no! I was in touch with him only last year when I was writing about Janacek and he was incredibly generous and helpful answering my ridiculously unscholarly questions and refuting my half-baked theories with great grace. He had just finished putting together a critical edition of From The House of the Dead and the Violin Concerto. Even among Czech academia, he is regarded as one of the most important Janacek scholars. He will be greatly missed.