Composer Vadim Petrov leaves behind rich musical legacy

Vadim Petrov, photo: Ondřej Tomšů

Composer, pianist and music teacher Vadim Petrov has died at the age of 88. Petrov created over 1,400 compositions in the course of his career, from symphonies to film and theatre music as well as music for children’s cartoons and fairy tales.

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů

Vadim Petrov, a musician of Czech-Russian descent, is a household name in the Czech Republic having touched the hearts of millions, be they lovers of classical music, film buffs or children. Petrov, who grew up surrounded by music from an early age moved with effortless ease from one music genre to another. In the course of a career spanning more than 60 years he created over 1,400 compositions, two dozen symphonic poems, hundreds of songs, music for the stage, films, TV series and radio plays. Children learned to love his music long before they learnt his name – in the legendary series Krkonošské povídky, Krteček or Spejbl and Hurvínek. He wrote the music for the film adaptation of the Good Soldier Svejk and dozens of other popular films and radio plays.

Jan Simon, the former head of the Symphonic Orchestra of Czech Radio, says Vadim Petrov had  exceptional talent in reaching people through different genres.

Jan Simon,  photo: Daniela Simonová,  Czech Radio

“He did not pander to popular taste. His compositions are highly sophisticated. But he had the power to reach his audience through a clear, powerful melody that spoke volumes. That is rare in the present day and age.”

Petrov studied composition and piano at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. But it was composing that turned out to be his life’s passion –creating just the right melody for a film, TV series or radio play. In this he was hugely successful and greatly sought after. "I've always had so many scores on my desk that I've almost forgotten to play the piano," he said at his 80th birthday celebration.

Vadim Petrov,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů

He taught several generations of Czech musicians. He founded the People's Conservatory in Prague in the 1960s, today's the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, where he worked as its first director. When he was forced to leave the position by the communist regime after 1968, he worked at the Jan Deyl Conservatory and the Prague Conservatory. Petrov's pupils included, for example, composer and pianist Petr Malásek, opera singer Dagmar Pecková and singer Anna K.

His work earned him many awards at home and abroad. In 2018 he was awarded a Medal of Merit by President Miloš Zeman. Looking back at his creative life in a recent interview he said “It is hard work to get to the top and even harder to stay there. But the hardest thing of all is to know when to bow out with grace.”