Novák, Vítezslav (actually, Viktor Augustín Rudolf)

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Novák, Vítězslav (actually, Viktor Augustín Rudolf)

Novák, Vítězslav (actually, Viktor Augustín Rudolf), eminent Czech composer and pedagogue; b. Kamenitz, Dec. 5, 1870; d. Skuteĝ, July 18, 1949. He received lessons in violin and piano as a child in Poĝátky, and then was a student of Vilim Pojman in Jindřichûv Hradec. In 1889 he went to Prague, where he studied law and philosophy at the Univ. but concentrated his studies on music at the Cons., where he was a student of Knittl, Stecker, and Dvořák. After graduating from the Cons, in 1892, he continued to study piano there with Jiránek until 1896. He also remained a student at the Univ. until 1895. He then taught privately and was active as a folk song collector. Through such orch. works as V tatrách (In the Tatras; 1902), Slovácká svita (Slovak Suite; 1903), and O věĝeine touzé (Eternal Longing; 1903–05), the cantata Boure (The Storm; 1910), and the piano tone poem Pan (1910), he acquired a notable reputation as a composer. He also was actively engaged in teaching, serving as a prof. at the Prague Cons. (1909–39). His importance as a composer was enhanced in later years by such works as the Podzimni symfonie (Autumn Sym.; 1931–34) and Jihoĝeská svita (South Bohemian Suite) for Orch. (1936–37). He was honored with the title of National Artist of the Czech Republic in 1945. The first vol. of his unfinished autobiography, O sobě a jinych, was publ, in Prague in 1946. Novák’s earliest works followed the general line of German Romanticism; Brahms was so impressed with them that he recommended Novák to his own publisher, Simrock. Novak’s interest in folk music made a substantial impact on his music, although he rarely incorporated original folk material in his compositions. His late works espoused patriotic themes.


(all first perf. in Prague unless otherwise given): dramatic:Zvãovsky rarásek (The Zvikov Imp), comic opera (1913–14; Oct. 10, 1915); Karlstejn, opera (1914–15; Nov. 18, 1916); Lucerna (The Lantern), musical fairy tale (1919–22; May 13, 1923); Dëdûv odkaz (Grandfather’s Legacy), opera (1922–25; Brno, Jan. 16, 1926); Signorina Gioventù, ballet pantomime (1926–28; first concert perf., Feb. 10, 1929; first stage perf., March 8, 1930); Nikotina, ballet pantomime (1929; March 8, 1930; concert suite, Nov. 3, 1930); incidental music to F. Rachlik’s play Zizka (1948; Ostrava, Oct. 28, 1949). orch.:Korzár (The Corsair), overture (1892; Nov. 20, 1927; rev. 1943); Serenade in F major for Small Orch. (Sept. 27, 1895); Piano Concerto (1895; Nov. 21, 1915); Marysa, dramatic overture (1898; Jan. 28, 1899); V Tatrách (In the Tatras), symphonic poem (Nov. 25, 1902); Slovácká svita (Slovak Suite) for Small Orch. (1903; Feb. 4, 1906); O veiné touze (Eternal Longing; 1903–05; Feb. 8, 1905); Serenade for Small Orch. (1905; March 6, 1906); Toman a lesni panna (Toman and the Wood Nymph), symphonic poem (1906–07; April 5, 1908); Lady Godiva, overture to J. Vrchlicky’s play (Nov. 24, 1907); Podzimni symfonie (Autumn Sym.) for Men’s Chorus, Women’s Chorus, and Orch. (1931–34; Dec. 18, 1934); Jihoëeskâ svita (South Bohemian Suite; Dec. 22, 1937); De profundis, symphonic poem for Orch. and Organ (Brno, Nov. 20, 1941); Svatováclavsky triptych (St. Wenceslas Triptych) for Orch. and Organ (1941; Oct. 8, 1942); Májová symfonie (May Sym.) for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orch. (1943; Dec. 5, 1945). chamber: Violin Sonata (1891; July 8, 1892); Trio in G minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello (1892; July 8, 1893); Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1894; rev. version, Brunn, Feb. 5, 1899); Quintet for Piano, 2 Violins, Viola, and Cello (1896; rev. version, April 26, 1905); 3 string quartets: No. 1 (1899; Nov. 19, 1900), No. 2 (Berlin, Nov. 1905), and No. 3 (1938; Jan. 23, 1939); Trio in D minor, quasi una ballata (Brunn, April 6, 1902); Cello Sonata (1941; Brno, Feb. 27, 1942). piano:Sonáta eroica (1900; March 1, 1905); Pan, tone poem (1910; Nov. 14, 1911; orch. 1912; Jan. 12, 1913); Dva valasské tance (Two Valachian Dances; 1904; orch. 1936; Dec. 13, 1936); 6 sonatinas (1919–20; Dec. 11, 1920). vocal:Údolí Nového království (Valley of the New Kingdom), 4 songs for High Voice and Piano (1903; Chrudim, Dec. 26, 1904); Melancholické pisnë o lásce (Melancholy love songs about love), song cycle for Voice and Piano (1906); Notturna for Voice and Piano (1906–08; Nov. 19, 1908); Boure (The Storm), sea fantasy for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1908–10; Brunn, April 17, 1910); Svatebni kosile (The Spectre’s Bride), ballad for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1912–13; Dec. 3, 1913); Dvë romance (Two romances) for Voice and Orch. (1934; March 26, 1936); In memoriam, song cycle for Mezzo-soprano, String Orch., Harp, and Tom-tom (1936–37; March 17, 1938); Dvë legendy na slova lidové poezie moravské (Two legends to words of Moravian folk poetry) for Mezzo-soprano and Piano or Orch. (1944; Oct. 5, 1949).


Z. Nejedlý, V. N.: Studie a kritiky (Prague, 1921); B. Vomácka and S. Hanuś, eds., Sbornã na poĝest 60 narozenin V.a N.a (Prague, 1930); A. Srba, ed., V. N.: Studie a vzpominky (Prague, 1932; supplements, 1935, 1940); A. Hába, V. N.: K 70 narozeninám (Prague, 1940); V. Štěpán, N. a Suk (Prague, 1945); K. Hoffmeister, Tvorba V.a N.a z let 1941–1948 (Prague, 1949); V. Lébl, V. N.: Život a dilo (Prague, 1964; Eng. tr., 1968); K. Padria and B. Štědron, eds., Národní umëlec V. N., Studie a vzpominky k 100. vyroli narozeni (Studies and Reminiscences on the 100thAnniversary of V. N.’s Birth; ĝeské Budějovicé, 1972).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire