Novák Vítězslav

  • Novák V
Year of Birth - Death :
1870 - 1949 †
More info:


Vitezslav Novak was born in Kamenice nad Lipou, 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 participated in the masterclasses 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 Storm (1908-10).

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 masterclasses, established in 1919, were 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.

NB. This text was originally published at the website of The Kapralova Society ( ). Provided by courtesy of Karla Hartl, the director.