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Foerster, Josef Bohuslav

Foerster, Josef Bohuslav

Foerster, Josef Bohuslav, eminent Czech composer and teacher, son of Josef Förster; b. Prague, Dec. 30, 1859; d. Nový Vestec, near Stará Boleslav, May 29, 1951. He studied at the Prague Organ School (1879–82), then was organist at St. Vojtech (1882–88) and choirmaster of Parma Marie Snezná (1889–94). He married the Czech soprano Berta Foerstrová-Lautererová; (b. Prague, Jan. 11, 1869; d. there, April 9, 1936) in 1888; when she became a member of the Hamburg Opera in 1893, he settled there as a music critic and later became a prof. of piano at the Cons, in 1901. After his wife became a member of the Vienna Court Opera in 1903, he became a prof. of composition at the New Vienna Cons. He returned to Prague in 1918; then taught composition at the Cons. (1919–22), at its master school (1922–31), and at the Univ. of Prague (1920–36). He served as president of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Art (1931–39), and was awarded the honorary title of National Artist of the Czech government in 1945. He continued to teach privately and to compose during the last years of his long life. He taught many distinguished Czech composers of the 20th century. He publ. a detailed autobiography (Prague, 1929–47), as well as several vols. of essays and articles. Of his numerous compositions, the most important are his operas, instrumental music, and choral pieces written before World War I. His works from this period are suffused with lyric melos, and reveal characteristic national traits in Foerster’s treatment of melodic and rhythmic material; his harmonic idiom represents the general style of Central European Romanticism.

Works

DRAMATIC Opera (all 1st perf. in Prague): Debora (1890–91; Jan. 27, 1893); Eva (1895–97; Jan. 1, 1899); Jessika (1902–04; April 16, 1905); Nepfemozeni (Invincibilities; 1917; Dec. 19, 1918); Srdce (Hearts; 1921–22; Nov. 15, 1923); Bloud (The Fool; 1935–36; Feb. 28, 1936). CHAMBER: 3 piano trios (1883; 1894; 1919–21); String Quintet (1886); 5 string quartets (1888; 1893; 1907–13; 1944; 1951); 2 cello sonatas (1898, 1926); Wind Quintet (1909); Piano Quintet (1928); Nonet (1931); Violin Sonata (1925); Sonata quasi fantasia for Solo Violin (1943); piano pieces. VOCAL: Choral works; songs. OTHER: Inci-dental music for various plays. ORCH.: 5 syms.: No. 1 (1887–88), No. 2 (1892–93), No. 3 (1894), No. 4 (1905), and No. 5 (1929); Me mladi (My Youth), symphonic poem (1900); Cyrano de Bergerac, suite (1903); Ze Shakespeara (From Shakespeare), suite (1908–09); Legenda o stesti (Legend of Happiness), symphonic poem (1909); 2 violin concertos (1910–11; 1925–26); Jaro a touha (Spring and Longing), symphonic poem (1912); Jtfinskd suita (1923); Cello Concerto (1930); Capriccio for Flute and Small Orch. (1945–46).

Bibliography

Nejedly, J.B. F. (Prague, 1910); J. Bartos, J.B. F. (Prague, 1923); J. Bartos, P. Prazak, and J. Plavec, eds., J.B. F.: Jeho zivotnipout a tvorba:1859–1949 (Prague, 1949); F. Pala, J.B. F. (Prague, 1962).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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