Felix Václav

  • Felix
Year of Birth - Death :
1928 - 2008 †
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The composer Vaclav Felix studied piano, violoncello, musical theory and composition privately even as a secondary school pupil. He later passed a graduation course at the Prague Conservatory and went to study composition at the Faculty of Music of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts in the class of Pavel Borkovec and Vaclav Dobias (graduated 1953). He completed his education with three-year post-graduate studies with musical theoretician Karel Janecek, earning a doctor's degree in philosophy and the title of Candidate of Science. He worked as an editor of the "Hudebni Rozhledy" magazine, and as Secretary of the Union of Czechoslovak Composers. From 1960 to 1990 he was teaching at the Faculty of Music of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, since 1973 as Assistant Professor, since 1979 as head of the department of theory and history of music (from 1985 as Professor, and also appointed Dean of the Faculty, until 1989). Since 1978 Felix had been Deputy Chairman of the Union of Czech Composers and Concert Artists (until 1989).

Vaclav Felix has won many distinctions and recognitions for his efforts so far. These include the Prize of the Czech Minister of Culture (1976), the title of Artist of Merit (1978), the Prize of the Union of Czech Composers and Concert Artists (1980), and the National Prize for opera Mariana (1988).

Vaclav Felix grew from an atmosphere of domestic chamber music-making and as a student cooperated with choirs. This distinctly influenced his development as a composer and the orientation of his creation: chamber and vocal genres have quantitative prevalence among his compositions. His manuscript is characterised by austerity in the use of means, clean guidance of voices, care for each part to be well playable as well as lilt of melodic invention and effort for musical expression of concrete human emotions. These typical chamber and vocal principles are applied also in his symphony and stage works.

Gradually Felix was taking in various incentives of the 20th century music, without ever denying his original stylistic starting-point. His creative attitude is synthesising, characterised by an effort to achieve as intense an emotional impartation as possible. For this purpose he uses a broad palette of musical means.
Felix often takes subjects for his compositions from the world of children and from nature. However, they are never mere genre pictures, but usually contain serious ethical and philosophical messages. His most important compositions express a severe anti-war protest or a celebration of highest human moral values. This applies to vocal works, such as the choral cycle Memento or the chamber cantata Open House, as well as to orchestral compositions which lean toward the genre of the symphonic poem. Even in his chamber compositions, Felix often attempts to express concrete content, e.g. the "Snow-White" quintet, Sonata da requiem, and others.
Choral compositions by Felix were often on the repertory of many ensembles, starting from beginning children's choirs up to world-renowned Czech and Moravian teachers' choirs. Of his numerous chamber works, those most often performed have included his First Sonatina for Double-bass and Piano, Second Piano Trio in C and Sonata a Tre for violin, viola and harp, dedicated to the Hungarian Harp Trio which performed it in many countries of the world. Three compositions for bass-clarinet and piano, dedicated to the Due Boemi di Praga, were met with a considerable positive response in Czechoslovakia and abroad (Sonata da Requiem, Sonata Giocosa and Double Concerto). His Sonata Giocosa (in its bassoon-piano version) and Sonata Lirica for oboe and piano were compulsory compositions entered in the Prague Spring international music competition. The Prague Quartet has accepted Quartetto Amoroso, a representative chamber work by Felix, in its repertory. His Wind Quintet and Brass Quintet have also found a firm place in the repertory of several outstanding Czech chamber ensembles. His vocal cycle Over the Cot for soprano and piano won the first prize in the competition of composers for the International Year of the Woman.
Vaclav Felix started to compose symphonies not until he had matured into a fully-fledged composer. His extensive First Symphony features in all of its four movements a solo female voice (dramatic mezzosoprano). Serving as text are letters written by Marie Kuderikova, a Czech anti-fascist fighter, written while she was imprisoned in a Nazi jail before execution. The Second Symphony was also inspired by the fight for humanistic ideals, expressed purely by instrumental means (a smaller orchestra of classical type).
Vaclav Felix is also author of several effective and demanding compositions for large wind orchestra, dedicated to the Central Music Band of the Czechoslovak People's Army. Most important of them are the gala overture Labour Victorius and his Symphonic Variations on a Czech Recruit Song. After two comic one-act opera etudes Shy Casanova and The Advertisement, Felix set about composing in 1982 a full-length opera entitled Mariana, inspired by the emotional development of a young woman living in a contemporary village, undergoing a tumultuous social re-birth. The title role is written for dramatic mezzosoprano.