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Vitezslav Novak

born: 1870-12-05
died: 1949-07-18
birthplace: Kamenice nad Lipou
diedplace: Skutec

significant Czech composer of the beginning of 20th century, pupil of Antonin Dvorak. He came from musical family; at the time of his secondary school studies in Jindrichuv Hradec he started to compose and perform on piano in public. In 1889 he left to Prague to study music at the conservatory (1891-92 under A. Dvorak) and law at the university at the same time. After finishing the conservatory in 1893 he decided to quit the university and concentrate on his musical carreer. His works were recommended to the publisher F. Simrock by Johannes Brahms (who also helped young Dvorak years ago). Novak's early works were influenced by German romanticists (Schumann, Brahnms) and traditional music from Eastern Moravia and Slovakia. He got the inspiration from Dvorak's works and, most of all, from his random holiday journey in 1897. In the beginning of 20th Century, Novak was influenced by non-musical impacts such as symbolism in literature and impressionism in painting. He came to similar means of musical expression as musical impressionists abroad (Debussy) before their works arrived to Czechia. However, the roots of his music form remained in classicism, he even used some forms of baroque music (fugue, ciacona). His most creative period was between 1904-1912, following by a sort of creative crisis which he surpassed in the times of German occupation and beginning of World War II when he composed a number of important works in the spirit of patrioticism. Besides his composing work, he was also an important musical pedagogue. In 1909 - 1941 he was the professor of composition at the conservatory of Prague.

  • Operas
    • (rarely performed today)
  • Orchestral works
    • ouvertures Marysa 1898, Lady Godiva 1907
    • balety Signorina Gioventu 1828, Nikotina 1829
    • symphonic poems (in Tatras 1902, On Eternal Desire 1904, Toman and the Fairy from the Woods 1907, De profundis 1941)
    • Slovak Suite for Small Orchestra 1903, South Bohemian Suite 1937
    • Symphonies (Autumn Symphony 1934, May Symphony 1943)
  • Vocal writings
    • adaptations of traditional folk music (Slovak Chants a.o.)
    • songs on national lyrics (12 lullabys on lyrics of Moravian Traditional Poetry 1932, 2 legends on Moravian Poetry 1944)
    • songs cycles on lyrics by Czech poets (Melancholy, Valley of New Kingdom by Antonin Sova)
    • cantatas (Thunderstorm 1910, Wedding Shirt 1913)
  • Chamber works
    • String quartets in G Major and D Major
  • Piano works
    • Variations on Schumann Theme , 1893
    • On Twilight , 1896
    • Piano Quintet in A Minor , 1897
    • Songs of Winter Nights , 1903
    • Sonata Eroica , 1900
    • Pan (piano cycle) , 1910
    • Exotikon , 1911


Little Encyclopedia of Music (Dr. Jar. Smolka, Supraphon 1983)
Book of Music (V.Holzknecht, Orbis 1964)


Pan. Poem in Tones in Five Movements op.45 - 1910 (MP3) (Frantisek Rauch piano, Supraphon 2003)
Bagpipes sounding from cycle Gypsy Melodies op. 14, 1897 (MP3) (Roman Janal voc, Karel Kosarek piano, Supraphon 2005)

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Last update 2012-07-09