Slava Vorlova, née Miroslava Johnova, (pseud. Mira Kord). Czech composer. Nachod 15.3.1894 - Prague 24.8.1973.
Slava Vorlova, née Miroslava Johnova, was born in Nachod on March 15, 1894. Vorlova grew up in a musical family - her mother, Emilie Johnova, was a talented singer and pianist; her father, Rudolf John, founded a small community orchestra in Nachod. Vorlova started her formal studies of music (voice) with Rosa Papier at the Academy of Music in Vienna. In 1915 she moved to Prague where she took private piano lessons with Vaclav Stepan and composition lessons with Vitezslav Novak. In 1919 Vorlova married entrepreneur Rudolf Vorel, and for the next 15 years she had to give up her dream of becoming a composer in order to help her husband build a successful family business. She returned to music in 1933 when she composed her first opus, String Quartet "Bezkydy". The following year Vorlova participated in the masterclasses of Jaroslav Ridky at the Prague Conservatory of Music. Other works soon followed: Three Songs, op. 2, premiered in 1935; Three Songs, op. 4, , premiered in Brussels in 1947; String Quartet 2, op. 5, , premiered in 1941; Fantasy for Violoncello and Orchestra, op. 6, , premiered in 1945; and White Clouds, op. 8 - a cycle of ten songs for women's choir and orchestra, [1942-43] - premiered in 1944.
On May 8, 1945, just as the WWII was ending, Vorlova was forced to witness her husband's execution by an SS commando. She was traumatized by the horrible experience and it was only thanks to music that she was able to gradually move on with her life. Her patriotic cantata "A Little Country," op. 7, that Vorlova composed during the war [1941-42], was premiered in 1948. The same year, Vorlova completed her graduation work, Symphony for Large Orchestra, op. 18, dedicated to Jan Masaryk.
The year 1948 marks the beginnings of Vorlova's collaboration with poet-librettist V.H. Roklan (- a pseudonym of Dr. Vladimir Hloch who was to become Vorlova's life-long companion). The two collaborated on her symphonic poem "Songs of Gondwana," op. 19, for soli, mixed choir and orchestra. Other examples of their collaboration include Vorlova's opera-fairy tale "Golden Bird," op. 27, [1949-1950], and orchestral suite "Bozena Nemcova," op. 24, [1950-51], premiered in 1952. In 1951 Vorlova also composed Symphonic Overture and popular instructive music "Animals in a Piano," op. 26 - twenty-four piano miniatures for children. The latter composition was premiered and published in 1954 (KLHU).
During the ten years that followed, Vorlova wrote a number of instrumental concertos: Pastoral Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra, op. 28, , first performed in 1955; Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, op. 31, , premiered in 1954; Concerto for Viola and Orchestra op. 35, , premiered in 1955; Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, op. 41, , premiered in 1959; 'Spring' Concerto for Flute and Orchestra 'Slovacky', op. 48, ; and Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Strings, op. 50, , first performed the same year. During the decade she also composed four symphonic works: "Three Bohemian Dances," op. 29, [1952-53], for which she received an award in 1953; "Dances from Doudleby," op. 36, [1953-54], another award winning piece ; "Sarady" for Two Pianos and Symphonic Orchestra, ; and "Thuringian Dances," op. 44, , first performed in 1959. Vorlova also composed folk theatre plays "Rozmarynka", op. 30, [1952-53] (premiered in 1955), and an award winning "Nachod Cassation", op. 37, . Other stage works from the period include the composer's one-act opera "Two Worlds," op. 45, , "We, People of the Twentieth Century," op. 46 - a symphonic ode for children's voices, mixed choir and orchestra, , and 'New Age' Oratorio, op. 49, . Vorlova's chamber music from the period includes 'Paraphrases on Hussite Chants,' op. 34, for piano, , and "Pantummes for Harp," op. 47 .
Vorlova's compositional output from the sixties include: "Heart of a Gipsy," op. 52, for violin and dulcimer, ; 'Gay Intervals' for piano, op. 54, , published in 1965 by Panton; Miniatures for Bass Clarinet and Piano, op. 55,  (premiered in 1962 and published in 1968 by Panton); Serenade for Oboe and Harp, op. 57, ; 'Serenata Desta' for Flute, Bass Clarinet and Piano, op. 58, ; "Dessins Tetraharpes", op. 60, for four harps, ; "Two African Fables," op. 61, for a narrator, flute alto and percussion, ; and 'Sonata Lirica Da Tre' for Violin, Viola and Guitar, op. 62, , premiered in 1965. Orchestral works from the period include "The Cybernetics Studies," op. 56, , and Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp, and Orchestra, op. 59 . During this time Vorlova also experimented with unusual solo-concert instruments, e.g. in her 'Droleries Basclarinetiques', op. 63, for solo bass clarinet (composed and premiered in 1964); 'Il Fauno Danzante', op. 66, for solo bass clarinet, ; or "Efemerides," for solo dulcimer, .Vorlova also devised her own method for serial music (7-tone serial music) with which she produced some of her best works. The compositions in styles of dodecaphony, serial and aleatoric music include "Dedications," op. 64, ; "Bhukhar", op. 67, , premiered in 1968 and published in 1970 [Panton]; "Model Kinetic," op. 69, ; "6 for 5" for Brass Quintet, op. 71 , premiered in 1969; Chamber Concerto for Double Bass and Strings, op. 74, , premiered in 1972; and 'Correlations' for Bass Clarinet, Piano and Strings, op. 75, , premiered in 1969. She continued writing serial music compositions during the seventies: "Spectra", for clarinet, violoncello, and piano, ; "Polarizations," op. 84, for harp, brass orchestra and percussion, ; 'Esoterica', for flute and guitar, ; and her last orchestral composition "Perspectives," op. 90, for a narrator and symphonic orchestra, , on lyrics by V.H. Roklan.
In 1972, a year before Vorlova died, her music was finally acknowledged by the recording industry and released by Supraphon ("Imanence," op. 88). During the same year she wrote "Alphabet," op. 91, for two voices and piano - a yet another popular collection of instructive music for children - which was to be her last work. She died in summer 1973, after a prolonged battle with a terminal illness that ended her remarkable life, entirely devoted to composition.
List of Works
Sources of the text on Slava Vorlova:
Opus Musicum (1973/5-6), Ceskoslovensky hudebni slovnik osob a instituci, Czech Music Information Centre in Prague, and The Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. For details of the publications refer to the above bibliography.
Vorlova's handwriting and signature. (Back of a concert program. Prague, 1963.)
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