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Vítezslav Novák - Petrín, Praha, CZ
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Noe1
N 50° 04.936 E 014° 24.084
33U E 457173 N 5547949
Quick Description: Vítezslav Novák (5 December 1870 – 18 July 1949) was one of the most well-respected Czech composers and pedagogues, almost singlehandedly founding a mid-century Czech school of composition.
Location: Hlavní město Praha, Czechia
Date Posted: 2/8/2015 3:05:08 AM
Waymark Code: WMNBMP
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Team GPSaxophone
Views: 14

Long Description:
"Novák's music retained at least a partial allegiance to the late-Romantic style until his death. His earliest work to receive an opus number was a piano trio in G minor, but was preceded, in order of composition, by several works including an unpublished serenade in B minor for piano dating from 1886-7; all of these bear the influences of Schumann and Grieg. In his earliest years after graduating from Prague Conservatory his work began to show some influence from the Moravian and Slovak folk music which he began to collect and study in the late 1890s. Within the decade he had assimilated the basic intervallic and rhythmic characteristics of these folksongs into a very personal compositional style. The first works to reveal this change are the second string quartet op. 22 and the path-breaking solo piano work, Sonata eroica, op. 24.

The next influence was that of French impressionism, which first appears in the song cycle Melancholie, op. 25, composed in 1901, and reaches a peak in the tone poem O vecné touze (Of the Eternal Longing, op. 33, completed 1905). Meanwhile the more monumental aspects of his style, evident in the Slovak-inspired tone poem V Tatrách (In the Tatras, op. 26, 1902) and the song cycle Údolí nového království (Valley of the New Kingdom, op. 31, 1903) met their match in his discovery of the music of Strauss: the result was the tone poem, Toman a lesní panna (Toman and the Wood Nymph, op. 40, completed 1907).

The height of his compositional career was acknowledged, even in the criticism of the day, to consist of two great achievements, both completed in 1910: Pan, the five-movement tone poem for piano solo (totaling some sixty pages of music, op. 43), and Boure (The Tempest, op. 42, to a text by Svatopluk Cech, unrelated to Shakespeare's play). The latter was an immense symphonic cantata for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, spanning almost an hour of unbroken music; its attention to musico-dramatic detail points to Novák's increasing interest in opera, a genre he had yet to attempt.

The polemics with Nejedlý brought about a sharp turn in Novák's attitude to composition, wherein fear of rejection outpaced the joy of artistic exploration. The public dismissal of the orchestrated version of Pan (1912) and the next cantata, Svatební košile (The Wedding Shirt, 1913, based on the same Erben text as Dvorák's more famous work) brought about severe self-doubt and depression. Novák attempted to turn the situation around with two operas written on Czech historical subjects—a transparently nationalist move during wartime. Zvíkovský rarášek (The Zvíkov Imp, 1915, a comedy based on Stroupežnický) and Karlštejn (Karlštejn castle, 1916, a more serious work based on Vrchlický) both met with mixed reviews, although the latter gained an important place in the repertoire of Czech opera houses through mid-century. These works reveal Novák's tendency, latent in the early folksong work, toward bitonality, although this technique is not as manifest as in the works of Stravinsky, Milhaud, or Szymanowski.

The birth of the new republic in 1918 brought a rash of patriotic compositions, dedicated to the "President-Liberator" Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and the Czechoslovak Legion. These democratic impulses led to a marked conservatism in style, such that the artistic leadership of the years 1900-1916 all but disappeared. The two remaining operas, Lucerna (The Lantern, 1923, based on Jirásek), and Deduv odkaz (The grandfather's legacy, 1926, based on Heyduk) met with predominantly negative criticism, despite the compositional worth of the former; importantly, they induced extreme bitterness toward the cultural forces that opposed him, driving him toward reactionism.

With two ballet-pantomimes completed in the years 1928-29, Signorina Gioventù and Nikotina, Novák regained some of the respect he had lost among his colleagues; their vibrant layering of orchestral effects (including mixed meters and even references to tango) won him new admirers among the younger generation, most notably Iša Krejcí and Alois Hába. The years of the 1930s saw a return to chamber music, but also large forms such as the epic choral/orchestral work, Podzimní symfonie (Autumn Symphony, op. 62, premiered 1934).

During the years of the Nazi occupation, Novák's star rose again in the estimation of his compatriots, especially for the depth of his patriotic works, instilled with an intense, noble melancholy for the Czech people: the symphonic poems with organ, De Profundis (op. 67, 1941) and Svatováclavský triptych (Saint Wenceslas triptych, op. 70, 1942) and the Májová symfonie (May Symphony, op. 73, dedicated to Stalin as liberator of the Czechs and premiered after the war in 1945) demonstrate these sentiments in a monumental fashion. In his remaining years he devoted himself to choral works based on South-Bohemian folksong."

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Name of Musician: Vítězslav Novák

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