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Vítězslav Novák

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Biography

Vítězslav 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. Stylistically, he was a leading figure in the Neo-Romanticism movement, and his music has been occasionally considered an early example of Czech modernism.

He was born in Kamenice nad Lípou. He studied music at the conservatory in Prague, and attended Antonín Dvořák’s masterclasses where his fellow students included Josef Suk. From 1909 to 1920, Novák taught at the Prague Conservatory himself, and this occupied him to a greater degree than composing. He subsequently gave masterclasses, and composed somewhat more until his death. He died in Skuteč.

Novák’s music remained in a late-Romantic style until his death. His work shows some influence from the Moravian and Slovak folk music which he began to collect and study in the late 1890s. His works include a number of tone poems, among them Pan (1910, originally for piano, later orchestrated), chamber music including three string quartets, two piano trios and sonatas for violin and cello, and the cantata The Storm (1910). He also composed several operas.

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