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Karel Janovicky was born into a family of musicians, his father was a singer at the local opera. He first began to study music while at primary school and when, at 20, he came to Britain he continued his studies, eventually graduating in the piano, piano teaching and music theory from The Royal College of Music (M.Mus.R.C.M.) and also taking private composition lessons with the late Matyas Seiber. In 1957 he won the first prize in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's "Garland for Shakespeare" competition with his Symphonic Variations Op.17 on a Theme of Robert Johnson (a contemporary of Shakespeare). His Sonata for Two Violins and Piano was placed on the Society for Promotion of New Music's Recommended List. 1956 saw his Wigmore Hall debut as a piano accompanist. He accompanied the violoncellist Sela Trau who gave also the first perfomance of his Sonata for solo violoncello there. Apart from a number of works for orchestra, he has written much chamber music and a one-act opera on a science fiction theme, "The Utmost Sail". He was a producer in the BBC's Gramophone Department for nearly three years, after which he joined the BBC World Service. He became a member of The Composers' Guild of Great Britain. Janovicky is a busy writer - he edited the new English version of Jaroslav Vogel's "Leos Janacek: a Biography" (Orbis Publishing, London 1981) - and since retiring from the BBC at 60 has appeared on the BBC's Radio 3 as a reviewer and talks contributor. In December 1995 he wrote and presented a series of "Composer of the Week" programmes on Jan Dismas Zelenka and during the Proms season that year an interval talk on Mahler. In May 1994, during Radio 3's Prague Weekend, he presented his feature "Hope and Disillusionment" on the Czech musical scene after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. He writes and lectures on music, is a regular contributor to "Czech Music" (the journal of The Dvorak Society of Great Britain for Czech and Slovak Music) and has coached many singers and choirs in the phonetics of the Czech repertoire - most recently the Welsh National Opera for their 1998 production of Janacek's "Jenufa" and for the 1998-99 season the Royal Opera Covent Garden in Smetana's "The Bartered Bride".
Czech music critic Peter Veber wrote in "Hudebni rozhledy" (1995, No.1, p.12) about his Duo for Cellos: "Duo...turned out to be a musically refreshing cycle, there are permanent exchanges, imitations and echos between the instruments that draw listeners' attention from the very beginning....It reminds of a characteristic piece of music that can be easily remembered as a vivid general impression just after first listening..."
His recent compositions include a cycle of choruses for children and three new works for mixed choir, a Sonata for Bassett Horn and Piano which has been performed both in Europe and America, three String Quartets, a Saxophone Quartet for the distinguished Bohemia Saxophone Quartet, a Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, a Duo for Cellos, two Fantasias for Organ, a book of children's piano pieces "All Kind of Plonkybles", a concert piece for piano "Tango for Time out of Mind", a Piano Sonata, a Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Guitar or Keyboards and Cello, and three song cycles.
A biographical interview with Karel Janovicky has appeared in the book "Czech Music in the Web of Life" by Jana Marhounova (Empatie, Prague 1993). A recording of his song cycle "Passages of Flight" on poems by Richard Robbins (Kristyna Valouskova, soprano, and Petr Jirikovsky, piano) is included on the CD "Czech Songs of the 20th Century" (OLIVERIUS OL 0005-2) and "Soft Moonshine" - one of the songs in this cycle - has appeared in The British Contemporary Music Anthology 1996-97 (ed. Gerald Leach, Frontier Press, 1997). The Saxophone Quartet and the Saxophone Sonata are published by Rosewood Publications (www.rosewoodpublications.co.uk). Prague Radio has recorded and broadcast several of his recent works, including his Sonata for Bassett Horn and Piano, Fantasia for Organ No.1, Duo for Cellos, String Quartet No.1, Piano Variations on "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" ("Czech Composers Contemplate Their Good Friend, Graham Melville-Mason") The Terzina for Violin and Piano (1988) is available on a live CD of the Wigmore Hall recital by Peter Fischer (vn) and Alvin Moisey (pi) on 6th November 2000 (DAVID BIRT RECORDINGS WGHC01). Janovicky's Sonata for Harp (2000) has been issued on "Pritomnost V : Contemporary Czech Music", ARCO DIVA UP 0081-2131 (CD).
KAREL JANOVICKY is a member of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, and a committee member of the Dvorak Society of Great Britain for Czech and Slovak Music.