Josef Suk was born in 1874. He was immersed in music from a young age and his father was his first teacher of piano, organ, and violin. At the age of 11, he entered the Prague Conservatory. While he received his degree in 1891, Suk studied at the conservatory until 1892. Antonín Dvořák had become a professor at the conservatory and Suk stayed an additional year to study with him.
Dvořák and Suk had a close relationship. In 1898, Suk married Dvořák’s daughter, Otilie. In 1902, their son was born. This was a very happy time in Suk’s life. Unfortunately, in 1904 Dvořák passed away and 14 months later in 1905, Otilie passed away as well. Both the happy times in his life and the passing of his mentor and his wife had large impacts on the style of music he composed.
Suk was a composer, a teacher, and a performer, it was the latter two that were his main income over the years. He and his fellow students formed the Czech Quartet in 1893. He was their second violinist for 40 years, retiring in 1933.
In 1922, Suk became a professor in composition at the Prague Conservatory. He was appointed the head of the conservatory from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1933 until 1935.
Suk died in 1935 and is the grandfather of famed violinist Josef Suk. We will hear one of Suk’s compositions on November 16, 2017 when the Škampa Quartet play Meditation on the Old Behemian Chorale “St. Wenceslas” at our Toronto concert.
Bedřich passed away in 1884 but he kept working until close to the end of his life. He returned to Prague in 1861 when a new home for Czech opera was being built. Passed over for the position of conductor at the new theatre, he focussed on composing for opera competitions.
It is interesting to note that his command of the Czech language was not all that strong even though he was focusing on opera. Due to the politics when Bedřich was young, he was raised speaking, reading, and writing primarily German. So he studied the Czech language and focussed on writing and speaking it to obtain a better fluency. By 1864 Bedřich had developed a solid handle on the language – enough to become the music critic at a main Czech language newspaper.
By this point, Bedřich and Bettina had a second daughter. Bedřich had also made an attempt to be the Director of the Prague Conservatory. He was passed over for the position. He continued to compose and to conduct. And in 1866 two of he most famous operas were both presented at the Provisional Theatre. In January The Brandenburgers played to great success. In May a two act version of The Bartered Bride was presented. Due to the threat of invasion, it was poorly attended and the full three act version was performed finally in 1870 and well received.
In September of 1866, Bedřich was appointed principal conductor of the Provisional Theatre – the position he had hoped for back in 1861 when he had returned to Prague. Over the next several years, he brought more and more works from Czech composers to the Provisional Theatre.
There was much controversy generated with Bedřich being in this position over the next few years. He had much opposition and they made themselves known. In 1872 a petition was brought forward calling for his resignation. Support for Bedřich from the theatre and from well-known and respect musicians like Dvorak, ensured his reappointment in 1873 as Artistic Director with a change in title and an increase in responsibility.
In the summer of 1874, Bedřich fell ill. Among other things, his hearing started to fail. By the fall of 1874, he resigned his position. Over the next several years he continued to compose and to make public appearances. In 1876, he moved his family to the home of his eldest daughter in Jabkenice where he could compose undisturbed. His health continued to decline and signs of possible dementia started to emerge. He was still composing and making public appearances in the fall of 1883 but his outbursts worried his friends and family. In the spring of 1884, he was no longer coherent and his family was having difficulty caring for him at home. In April 1884 Bedřich was moved to an asylum in Prague and he passed away in May of that year.
As we approach Mother’s Day here in Canada, here is a link to some of our previous posts about Mothers of Composers!
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born in 1841 to František and Anna Dvořák. František was an innkeeper, butcher, and professional zither player. Antonín was their eldest child and showed an aptitude for music at a young age. At the age of six, he was learning to play the violin. He went on to study the organ and piano as well as music theory.
In his late teens, Dvořák lived in Prague and studied at the Organ School. After graduating second in his class, he applied for an organist position but was unsuccessful in securing the job. He remained in Prague and performed with the orchestras there during his twenties. At this time, he also started composing and was teaching on the side to supplement his income.
He married Anna Čermáková in 1873. Shortly after his marriage, Dvořák became the organist at St. Vojtěch Church in Prague.
In 1874, he won the Austrian State Prize for composition. This prize was intended to give some additional financial support to composers in need. Dvořák applied again in 1877 and was once again awarded the prize. Brahms was on both juries that awarded the prize and he was much impressed by the talent and volume of Dvořák compositions. So much so that Brahms recommended Dvořák to his own publisher, Simrock. After the successful publication of Dvořák’s Moravian Duets, Simrock commissioned him for a series of dance pieces, published as the Slavonic Dances. This helped launch his international career.
Tonight the Prazak Quartet will bring us one of Dvořák’s better known chamber music pieces. Join us to hear Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, “American”. http://music-toronto.com/quartets/prazak.htm
March 23, 2017 brings Marc-André Hamelin to our stage once again. He will be playing a selection of piano sonatas including works by Beethoven, Haydn, Scriabin, and Chopin. The evening will also include two sonatas by Samuel Feinberg.
Feinberg was a Russian composer and pianist. Born in 1890, he was raised in Moscow and studied at the Moscow Conservatory. He graduated in 1911 and started performing as a solo pianist. However, WWI was soon upon us and he was sent to fight for Russia. He became ill, was discharged, and spent a long period of time recovering in Moscow.
He became a faculty member at the Moscow Conservatory in 1922. With his piano career revived, he performed in Russia and toured parts of Europe in the 1920s. However, by the 1930s, under Stalin’s rule, Feinberg, a Jew, was no longer allowed to leave the country with the exception of two brief trips (1936 and 1938) to be a competition jury member. This time period also meant a return to a more conservative composition style for Feinberg. He felt it unwise to publish some of his progressive works written in the 1920s. For example, his Seventh Sonata was written in 1924/25 but not in print until the 1970s.
In 1951, he became ill and by 1956 he had stopped performing in public. He continued to compose and to play up until his death and made a number of recordings, especially when he could no longer perform in public. Feinberg was a respected member of the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory until his death in 1962 at the age of 72.
Marc-André Hamelin will perform Feinberg’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor, Op. 2 and Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 1 at his Toronto recital on March 23rd. http://music-toronto.com/piano/Hamelin.htm
Franz Asplmayr was born in 1728 and lived to be 58 years old. Born in Linz, Austria, he studied violin with his father initially and was mainly self-taught in composition. He was a prolific composer of ballets, symphonies, chamber music. Influenced by composers of the Mannheim School, Asplmayer combined techniques with the developing Viennese style. During his life time he met both Haydn (in 1760) and Mozart (in the 1780s).
He moved to Vienna in the late 1740s. In 1759 he started serving in the Imperial court. He started as a secretary and violinist and eventually took over the duties of Christoph Willibald Gluck, the ballet composer for the Kärntnertortheater. When this position finished, Asplmayr composed for Jean Georges Noverre’s ballet troupe.
We will be treated to one of his quartets with the Eybler Quartet on February 16, 2017 in Toronto. Join us to hear Quartet in D Major, Op.2 No.2 by Franz Asplmayr.
Jonathan Berger is an American composer born in New York in 1954. He obtained a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts and a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Composition from Stanford University. He currently holds the position of Denning Family Provostial Professorship in Music at Stanford University in California.
The founding co-director of Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA, now the Stanford Arts Institute) and founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology, Berger composes for a wide variety of styles – opera, chamber, orchestral, vocal, to name a few. His work has been performed world-wide and he has been commissioned by several music foundations and ensembles over the years.
Along with composing and teaching, Berger is a researcher in areas related to music, science, and technology with over 60 publications.
Read more about Berger and his works on his website at http://jonathanberger.net/bio/. You can listen to some of his pieces on his site as well. This link will take you directly to his music page – http://jonathanberger.net/all-music/
Join us with the St. Lawrence String Quartet on January 26th to hear his piece “Swallow”, written in 2014 for the SLSQ. http://music-toronto.com/quartets/STLQ.htm