Vitezslav Novak was born in Kamenice nad Lipou (now Czech Republic) in the family of a small town physician. His father died when Vitezslav was eleven, and the family moved to Jindrichuv Hradec in South Bohemia. Here Vitezslav attended local high school and received more rigorous schooling in music. The traditional training did little to encourage his talent until he met the local choirmaster Vilem Pojman who developed his pianistic ability and encouraged his early efforts in composition.
When in 1889 Novak won a scholarship to study law at the Charles University in Prague, his heart was already set on studying music; and, therefore, he also enrolled at the Prague Conservatory. Here he studied music with Josef Jiranek (piano), Karel Knittl (harmony), and Karel Stecker (counterpoint). In 1891, on Stecker's recommendation, Novak was accepted into the Master School of Antonin Dvorak, under whom he studied composition. By that time he was also able to persuade his mother that he had to pursue a career in music rather than in law.
In 1896 Vitezslav Novak visited Lachian region (at the Moravian-Slovak border) and Slovakia and began to absorb the great folk music tradition of those areas. It was a turning point in his music which began to attract attention. By the early years of the twentieth century he was already a successful composer who had written masterpieces such as the symphonic poems
In the Tatra Mountains (1902),
Slovak Suite (1903), his most popular composition, and
Eternal Longing (1904). In 1908 he succeeded Dvorak as professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory. More of acclaimed compositions followed, including the symphonic poem
Toman and the Nymph of the Woods (1907), and the cantata
In spite of declining popularity of the late romantic movement in music after WWI, Vitezslav Novak remained an important personality in Czech musical life. His Master School, established at the Prague Conservatory in 1919, was eagerly sought out by a new generation of Czech composers. Following somewhat less successful excursions to the world of opera and ballet during the twenties, Novak returned to symphonic music with his mature works
Autumn Symphony (1934),
South Bohemian Suite (1936-7),
De Profundis (1941), and
May Symphony (1943), which was to be his last. He died suddenly in Skutec at the age of seventy-nine.
List of Works
Only works with opus numbers are included in this list.
Serenade in F-Major, Op. 9
Ouverture "Marysa", Op. 18
Symphonic poem "V Tatrach" [In the Tatra Mountains], Op. 26
Slovacka suita [Slovak Suite], Op. 32
Symphonic poem "O vecne touze" [Eternal Longing], Op. 33
Serenade in D-Major, Op. 36
Symphonic poem "Toman a lesni panna" [Toman and the Nymph of the Woods], Op. 40
Ouverture "Lady Godiva", Op. 41
Symphonic cantata "Boure" [Storm], Op. 42
Ballet "Signorina Gioventu", Op. 58
Ballet "Nikotina", Op. 59
Podzimni symfonie [Autumn Symphony], Op. 62
Jihoceska suita [South Bohemian Suite], Op. 64
De Profundis, Op. 67
Svatovaclavsky triptych, Op. 70
Majova symfonie [May Symphony], Op. 73
Scenicka hudba [stage music] ke hre F. Rachlika "Zizka", Op. 79[b]
Piano Trio in G-Minor, Op. 1
Three Pieces for violin and piano, Op. 3
Piano Quartet in C-Minor, Op. 7
Piano Quintet in A-Minor, Op. 12
String Quartet in G-Major, Op. 22
Trio in D-Minor, Op. 27
String Quartet in D-Major, Op. 35
String Quartet in G-Major, Op. 66
Sonata for cello and piano, Op. 68
Ballad in E-Minor, Op. 2
Variace na Schumannovo tema [Variations on a Theme by Schumann], Op. 4a
Bagately [Bagatelles], Op. 5
Vzpominky [Reminiscences], Op. 6
Barcaroly, Op. 10
Eklogy, Op. 11
Za soumraku [At Dusk], Op. 13
Tri ceske tance [Three Czech Dances], Op. 15
Muj maj [My May], Op. 20
Sonata Eroica, Op. 24
Pisne zimnich noci [Songs of Winter Nights], Op. 30
Dva valasske tance [Two Lachian Dances], Op. 34
Melancholicke pisne o lasce [Melancholy Songs about Love] Op. 38/I
Pan, Op. 43
Erotikon (suite), Op. 45
Six Sonatinas, Op. 54
Mladi [Youth], Op. 55
Songs and choral music with or without piano/orchestra accompaniment
Pisne [Songs], Op. 4b
Pohadka srdce [Story of One Heart], Op. 8
Ciganske melodie [Gypsy Melodies], Op. 14
Pisnicky na slova lidove poezie moravske I [Songs on Moravian Folk Poetry I], Op. 16
Pisnicky na slova lidove poezie moravske II, [Songs on Moravian Folk Poetry II], Op. 17
Dve balady na slova lidove poezie moravske, [Two Ballads on Moravian Folk Poetry], Op. 19
Pisnicky na slova lidove poezie moravske III, [Songs on Moravian Folk Poetry III], Op. 21
Moravske lidove balady [Moravian Folk Ballads], Op. 23
Melancholie [Melancholy], Op. 25
Dve balady na slova J. Nerudy [Two Ballads], Op. 28
Balada o dusi J. Nerudy, [Ballad about J. Neruda's Soul], Op. 29
Udoli noveho kralovstvi [New Kingdom Valley], Op. 31
Sest muzskych sboru [Six Male Choruses], Op. 37
Melancholicke pisne o lasce [Melancholy Songs about Love] Op. 38
Notturna, Op. 39
Na domaci pude, Op. 44
Erotikon, Op. 46
Ctyri basne Otokara Breziny [Four Poems of Otokar Brezina], Op. 47
Svatebni kosile, Op. 48
Sila a vzdor, Op. 51
Jaro [Spring], Op. 52
Tri ceske zpevy [Three Czech Chants], Op. 53
Ze zivota [From One's Life], Op. 60
Dvanact ukolebavek na slova lidove poezie moravske [Twelve Lullabies on Moravian Folk Poetry], Op. 61
Dve romance na slova J. Nerudy [Two Romances], Op. 63
In memoriam, Op. 65
Domov [Home], Op. 69
Pet smisenych sboru [Five Mixed Choruses], Op. 71
Maj [May], Op. 72
Pisnicky na slova lidove poezie moravske IV [Songs on Moravian Folk Poetry IV], Op. 74
Pisnicky na slova lidove poezie moravske V [Songs on Moravian Folk Poetry V], Op. 75
Dve legendy na slova lidove poezie moravske [Two Legends on Moravian Folk Poetry], Op. 76
Jihoceske motivy [South Bohemian Motifs], Op. 77
Ctyri ukolebavky [Four Lullabies], Op. 78
Pisen pracujiciho lidu [Song of Working People], Op. 79[a]
Zvikovsky rarasek, Op. 49
Karlstejn, Op. 50
Lucerna, Op. 56
Deduv odkaz, Op. 57
Many of the above scores have been published and can be dowloaded from the Petrucci Music Library
In the Tatra Mountains, Op. 26. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek [cond.]. Virgin Classics VC 5 45251 2.
Slovak Suite, Op. 32. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek [cond.]. Virgin Classics VC 5 45251 2.
Eternal Longing, Op. 33. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek [cond.]. Virgin Classics VC 5 45251 2.
Toman and the Nymph of the Woods, Op. 40. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek [cond.]. Chandos CHAN 9821.
Lady Godiva, Op. 41. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek [cond.]. Chandos CHAN 9821.
Storm, Op. 42. The Czech Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, Zdenek Kosler [cond.]. Supraphon SU 3088-2 211.
Signorina Gioventu, Op. 58. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Frantisek Jilek [cond.]. Supraphon SU 3049-2031.
Nikotina, Op. 59. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Frantisek Jilek [cond.]. Supraphon SU 3050-2031.
South Bohemian Suite, Op. 64. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaroslav Vogel [cond.]. Supraphon [Ultraphon] 11 1873-2 011.
De Profundis, Op. 67. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaroslav Vogel [cond.]. Supraphon [Ultraphon] 11 1873-2 011. Also: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek [cond.]. Chandos CHAN 9821.
String Quartet No.2. Janacek Quartet. Multisonic (1995).
Memories, Op. 6. Antonin Kubalek [pf]. /In: Memories of Bohemia. Various Composers./ Dorian Recordings DOR-90185.
Songs of Winter Nights, Op. 30. Margaret Fingurhut [pf]. Chandos.
Pan, Op. 43. Margaret Fingurhut [pf]. Chandos.
click on images for links to recordings
Cerny, Jaromir. "Vitezslav Novak." Czech Music Quarterly 4 (2004): 1-4. (In English)
Fukac, Jiri. "Vitezslav Novak v roce 1980. Pokus o aktualizaci jasnych i spornych otazek. Opus Musicum, 11 (1980): 130-134.
Haba, Alois. Vitezslav Novak (K sedmdesatym narozeninam). Praha: Vysehrad, 1940.
Hoffmeister, Karel. 50 let s Vitezslavem Novakem. Praha: HMUB, 1949.
Holzknecht, Vaclav. Vitezslav Novak - ucitel. Praha: Vydavatelstvi Ministerstva informaci, 1940.
Kresanek, Jozef. "Novakovska tradice na Slovensku." Opus Musicum, 7 (1983): 193-195.
Krupkova, Lenka. "Ohlasy na Novakova dila ve Vidni a Berline v obdobi do roku 1918." Acta musicologica, 3 (2005).
Krupkova, Lenka. "Vitezslav Novak a kompozicni problemy evropske hudebni moderny." Zpravy spolecnosti V. Novaka, 34 (1999): 9-18.
Lebl, Vladimir. Vitezslav Novak: zivot a dilo. Praha: Academia, 1964.
Novak, Vitezslav. O sobe a o jinych. [Autobiography.] Praha: Editio Supraphon, 1970.
Racek, Jan. "Vitezslav Novak a jeho lidsky i umelecky vztah k Morave." Opus Musicum, 11 (1980): 138-147.
Schnierer, Milos. "Odkaz Vitezslava Novaka ve svetle pramenu a literatury." Opus Musicum, 2 (1980): I-IV.
Schnierer, Milos. "Vitezslav Novak neznamy. Nekolik poznamek ke korespondenci nar. umelce V. Novaka." Opus Musicum 11 (1980): 153-156.
Schnierer, Milos. Vitezslav Novak: Tematicky a bibliograficky katalog. [Thematic and Bibliographical Catalogue]. Praha: Editio Praga, 1999.
Sedlacek, Marek. "Pedagogicka cinnost Vitezslava Novaka ve svetle vzpominek jeho zaku a kolegu." Acta musicologica, 3 (2005).
Souckova, Marketa. "Moravska lidova pezie - vecna (i vdecna) inspirace Vitezslava Novaka. Opus Musicum, 6 (2002): 16-24.
Srba, A., (ed.). Vitezslav Novak: Studie a vzpominky. Praha: Osvetovy klub v Praze, 1932.
Stedron, Bohumir. "Slovacka svita." Opus Musicum, 9 (1980): 257-264.
Stedron, Milos. "Vitezslav Novak. Typologicke reflexe." Opus Musicum, 11 (1980): 151-152.
Volek, Jaroslav. "Vitezslav Novak a secese." Opus Musicum, 8 (1970): 225-229.
Institute to Promote the Work and Legacy of Vitezslav Novak