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Jan Levoslav Bella


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Ján Levoslav Bella (4 September 1843 – 25 May 1936) was a Slovak composer, conductor and music teacher, who wrote in the spirit of the Nationalist Romantic movement of the 19th century.

Bella was born in Liptovský Mikuláš, Austrian Empire (now Slovakia), and raised in a Roman Catholic family.
He studied at the college in Levoča (Lőcse) and a seminary in Banská Bystrica (Besztercebánya) before taking a degree at Vienna University.

Bella was ordained a priest in 1866.
From 1869 to 1881 he was town director of music at Kremnica (Körmöcbánya).

He left the priesthood in 1881 and converted to Protestantism, becoming director of music in Hermannstadt/Nagyszeben, now Sibiu in modern Romania, (at that time Kingdom of Hungary) where he remained until 1921.
From 1921 to 1928 he lived in retirement in Vienna, moving to Bratislava in 1928, where he died in 1936.

Bella began to compose whilst studying in Levoča. At this time his output was largely small-scale, such as church music, folk-song arrangements and some chamber music.
In 1873 however, visiting Vienna and Prague, he heard for the first time the music of, amongst others, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner and Bedřich Smetana.
This encounter with romantic music had a profound effect, of which the first result was Bella’s 1874 symphonic poem Osud a ideál (Fate and the Ideal), which premiered in Prague in 1876.

In his day Bella was respected both as a composer and conductor by such important musical figures as Antonín Dvořák, Johannes Brahms, Hans von Bülow, Joseph Joachim and Ernst von Dohnányi.

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