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OSKAR NEDBAL - COMPOSER
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Phone: 212-860-5541  *  Fax: 917-677-8247

 

Autographed and inscribed 11.5” x 16.75” Adolf Ecksteine of Berlin presentation photograph by the tragic Czech composer, conductor and violist to the Viennese cabaret music director Karl Recher with a note in Czech regarding an orchestra concert, December 22, 1908.

 

Nedbal (1874-1930) was born in Täbor in 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 absorbed Dvorak’s style and his works in many cases are a reflection of his tutelage with Dvorak.

 Nedbal was the violist with the famed Bohemian Quartet, the most important String Quartet in Central Europe at the end of the 19th Century and the first three decades of the 10th Century and had an international reputation of renown. Nebal was a founder of the group composed of fellow pupils of Anton Bennewitz; including Josef Suk and Karel Hoffmann who was joined with their cellist friend Hanus Wihan.  Nedbal remained in the chamber group until 1906 when his extramarital affair was exposed.                           

From 1896 Nedbal was the Principal Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic which also ended in 1906 due to the public flap about the affair.  While with the orchestra, he took the them 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.  His grief turned into an affair with Hoffmann’s wife and he left Prague in 1907 with his girlfriend Mary Hoffmann in tow.  In order for Mary to marry him, they both took up Hungarian citizenship where divorces were allowed by taking the unusual step of adopting a Hungarian citizen, so logically he adopted his friend cellist David Popper! 

Once married, he became the founding Music Director of the newly formed Tonkünstler Orchester in Vienna which was created to perform new works by local  composers including, Pfitzner, Schoenberg and Zemlinsky.  They also performed popular concerts and their home was the Theater an der Wien.  It therefore led Nedbal to compose operettas for the orchestra to perform in that hall including: “Cudná Barbora”, “Polská krev”, “Vinobraní”, “Krásná Saskia Eriwan” and “Mamselle Napoleon”.  He remained in Vienna until 1918, when Bohemia was separated from Austria after World War I and he moved back to Prague. where he faced a lot of resistance due to his marriage to Hoffmann’s wife.  Endless gossip articles filled the local papers.  As he needed work,  Nedbal conducted orchestras which were run by Czechs who knew him in Vienna, as his Czech boyhood friends abandoned him.  During this period, he began to compose larger works including 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 with the American stock market crash which also effected Europe.  Additionally he was despondent about the fact the media had not let up on their gossip articles all these years later.  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 well represents the early 2nd Vienna School of operetta.  Interestingly, Franz Lehar was a classmate at the Prague Conservatory.

Karl Recher was the Musik Direktor at the famed Café Europe on Stephensplatz run by Ludwig Riedl in Vienna.  Gustav Mahler lived in an apartment across the street from the café which at the time of this phogograph was regularly inhabited by both artists and musicians.  They would offer a variety of musical acts, mainly singers with small ensembles and Recher was known for writing exclusive contracts with the singers so they could not sing elsewhere.  The café burnt to the ground in 1945.

Autographed images of Nedbal are scarce and this one is quite large!