Australian Brett Dean is a contemporary composer. Born in Brisbane in 1961, he played violin from the age of eight and later moved to viola. He studied at the Queensland Conservatorium, graduating with the Conservatorium Medal for the highest achieving Student of the Year in 1982.
In 1985, he joined the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as a violist. He played with them until 1999. He returned to Australia in 2000, deciding to work as a freelance artist. He started composing in 1988, originally for film and radio.
His list of compositions and awards has grown greatly over the years and includes pieces for ballet, opera, orchestra, chamber music, solo instruments, and choral. In 2016, Dean became the inaugural Artist in Residence with Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a position which will last for three years and includes conducting, performing, and collaborating with creative programming. The world premier of his latest opera, Hamlet, took place this past summer at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.
We will hear his piano piece Hommage à Brahms played by Benjamin Grosvenor at our November 7, 2017 concert. While this three movement piece can be played on its own, it was intended to be performed as interludes between the Four Pieces of Op. 119 by Johannes Brahms – Engelsflügel 1 placed between Brahms’ B-minor and E-minor Intermezzos, Hafenkneipenmusik between the E-minor and C-major Intermezzos, and Engelsflügel 2 between the C-major Intermezzo and the E-flat-major Rhapsody. It will be played this way by Grosvenor at our concert.
Marjan Mozetich is a Canadian composer of Slovenian heritage. Born in Italy, he emigrated to Hamilton, Ontario with his family at the age of 4. He started his music studies with theory and piano in Hamilton at 9 years old. He graduated in 1972 from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Music and with a diploma in piano performance as an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. He continued his studies abroad for the next two years, studying privately in Italy and the UK.
His new music works have been performed around the world by many prominent artists over the years. In 1971, he co-founded Arraymusic and he served as their artistic director from 1977 to 1979. He started teaching composition in 1991 at Queen’s University and continues to teach and reside in Kingston, Ontario.
Explore more about Marjan Mozetick and his music on his website at http://www.mozetich.com/
We will hear his piece Scales of Joy and Sorrow (2008) performed by the Gryphon Trio at our December 7, 2017 concert.
Over the past few weeks we have looked at a few different noted Czech composers. Today we take a brief look at a still living Czech composer!
Pavel Fischer was born in 1965 into a musical family. His mother sang in a sextet specializing in Moravian folk music. His father conducted. Fischer attended the Prague Conservatory and the Prague Academy of Music. He cofounded the Škampa Quartet in 1989 and performed as their first violinist until 2007.
In 2007, Fischer decided to devote more time to composing and teaching. His first string quartet, Morava, premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2008. He was a visiting professor of chamber music at the Royal Academy in London. Since 2008 Fischer has been a tutor in violin at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Fischer has also added conducting to his interests. In December 2016, he led the National Youth String Orchestra in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can learn more about the South African National Youth Orchestra on their website http://www.sanyo.org.za/about-us/our-orchestras-and-ensembles/
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.
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