New Czech Radio CD welcomes the arrival of spring

A new CD, Rozhlasová jarní ouvertura (Radio Spring Overture), from Czech Radio‘s e-shop, has as its theme compositions by Czech 20th-century modernist composers inspired by the coming of spring, featuring recordings from the 1970s and early 2000s by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Pilsen Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The first two musical works selected for the CD are by composer Otakar Jeremiáš, who belongs to the traditional school of Czech classical music, following in the footsteps of the 19th-century Czech composers.

Otakar Jeremiáš | Photo: Czech Academy of Sciences

In 1907 he began his studies at the Prague Conservatory, studying organ under Josef Klička and musical theory and composition under Karel Stecker. Between 1909-10 he continued his composition studies privately with Vítězslav Novák and improved his cello playing under the tutelage of Jan Burian, later becoming a cellist with the Czech Philharmonic and a pianist in the Prague Trio.

In 1929 he contributed significantly to the development of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra and became its chief conductor. He led the orchestra until 1945, after which time he worked as a conductor at the National Theatre.

He composed mainly large orchestral works, often with a vocal component, for example The Gipsy's Fiddle for solo voices, Fantasia for grand orchestra and two mixed choirs, and The Spring Overture, opus 9.

Josef Suk | Photo: CES on-line/Centrální evidence sbírek muzejní povahy

The two pieces by Jeremiáš are followed by a composition by Josef Suk - one of the great Czech lyricists of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a student and later also son-in-law of Antonín Dvořák, and founder of the famous Bohemian Quartet. Suk’s works can be divided into two periods, with the death of Dvořák and, a year later, of Suk’s wife, constituting the divide between the two.

In his youth, Suk followed in the tradition of the composers of the Romantic period, his biggest inspiration being the music of Antonín Dvořák. He also learned from Johannes Brahms and other classical composers, whose influence can be seen clearly in his Symphony in E major from 1899. In his compositions for piano he focused mainly on small lyrical pieces.

From the very start of his career, Suk demonstrated his individuality in his deep lyricism, which manifested itself in the distinctive, captivating sensitivity and melodiousness of his musical thinking.

Josef Bohuslav Foerster | Photo: Ignác Šechtl,  Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

The next composer selected for the CD, Josef Bohuslav Foerster, was a jack-of-all-trades – aside from music he also earned his living as a painter, playwright, poet, and writer. As a composer Foerster tried his hand at all contemporary musical genres and created an extensive body of work, including choir music, several operas, melodramas, song cycles, piano pieces, and symphony and chamber orchestra music.

At the start of the 1880s, when Foerster first entered the world of music as a composer, Czech music had already garnered European attention with the founding work of Bedřich Smetana, and Antonín Dvořák was at the brink of his great international success. Foerster continued in the Smetana-Dvořák tradition. He mastered the complicated musical techniques of his time and on their basis created his own distinctive musical language.

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