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The Czech composer and violist write a musical quotation in B flat major by his teacher, Antonin Dvorak to the composer and conductor Josef Kafka, August 7, 1903.  Nedbal writes next to the quotation Dvorak’s name and then writes on the postcard of Schütt Island in Nuremburg, I played here every night.  The postcard dates to the year of the death of his first wife Josefa.

 

Nedbal (1874-1930) was born in Täbor in what was referred to then as Bohemia.  He studied at the Prague Conservatory with Anton Bennewitz (violin), Antonin Dvorak (composition), Karl Knittl (theory) and Karel Stecker (organ).  Nedbal was arguably Dvorak’s most important pupil and wrote about many of his experiences with the composer; including Dvorak’s amazement when first hearing Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony in Prague.  Nedbal’s op. 1 was Variations on a theme by Dvorak.  Interestingly Nedbal did absorb Dvorak’s style and his works in many cases are a reflection of Dvorak.

 

At the time this postcard was written, Nedbal was the violist with the famed Bohemian Quartet, the most important String Quartet from the Bohemian World and one of the most important in Europe.  Nebal was a founder of the group, all composed of pupils of Anton Bennewitz, including Josef Suk and Karel Hoffmann, joined with their cellist friend Hanus Wihan.  Nedbal remained until 1906.  Nedbal was from 1896 the Principal Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic also until 1906.  He took the orchestra on tour to the great music capitols of Europe to promote Czech music.  Nedbal also introduced ballet to Prague, as the orchestra at the time was part of the National Theater and produced the first ballet there in 1901.  His wife Josefa died in 1903 and he  consoled himself with the company of his friend Karl Hoffmann, the violinist with the Quartet.  The consolation turned into an affair and he left Prague in 1907 with Mary.  In order for Mary to marry him, they both took up Hungarian citizenship where divorces were allowed by taking the unusual step of adopting his contemporary colleague, the Jewish cellist David Popper!  He then became the Music Director of the newly formed Tonkünstler Orchester in Vienna which became known for its’ performances of new works by contemporary composers like, Pfitzner, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky etc.  They also performed popular concerts and their home was the Theater an der Wien, so it was only natural that Nedbal wrote operettas for the orchestra to perform. “Cudná Barbora”, “Polská krev”, “Vinobraní”, “Krásná Saskia Eriwan” and “Mamselle Napoleon” were all written by Nedbal and performed during this period, though not all at that theater.  He remained until 1918, when Bohemia was separated from Austria and he moved back to Prague, where he faced a lot of resistance due to his marriage to Hoffmann’s wife, including unflattering articles in the local papers.  During this time he conducted orchestras which were run by Czechs who had known him in Vienna, as his earlier friends abandoned him.  However, he continued to compose larger works, his Suite Mignonne for orchestra, the ballet, “Pevec lásky” and his only opera, “Sedlák Jakub”.  In 1923 he was appointed Director of the Slovak National Theater and in 1926 he was appointed Music Director of the new Slovak Radio Orchestra.  His personal debts began to mount, the media was still writing negative articles about him and during a trip to Zagreb, the day before Christmas, 1930, he jumped from a window of the ballet hall.  

 

Nedbal was a seriously talented composer whose remembered works have been stripped from larger works.  His “Valse Triste”, “Kavalier Waltz”, “Vinobrani”, “Die Glocken des Waldes”, “Scherzo Caprice” and the “The March of the Little Soldiers” are well performed primarily in Europe in both serious and pops concerts.  He represents well the next operetta composer generation after the Strauss’s, Millocker and von Suppé in Vienna.  Interestingly, Franz Lehar was a classmate at the Prague Conservatory.

 

We have not encountered a musical quotation previously by Nedbal, they are quite scarce. We have also run through endless b flat major and even minor piano works of Dvorak to no avail to discover from which work this quote is derived. 

 

Josef Kafka (1871-1915) was a Czech composer, conductor and choir director.

 

A scarce composer autographed musical quotation!

 

 

OSKAR NEDBAL - COMPOSER

NEAR MINT CONDITION