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Josef Suk
Medal record
Art competitions
Representing  Czechoslovakia
Olympic Games
Silver medal – second place 1932 Los Angeles Music

Josef Suk (4 January 1874 – 29 May 1935) was a Czech composer and violinist. He studied under Antonín Dvořák, whose daughter he married.

Biography

Josef Suk, early 1900s

From a young age, Josef Suk (born in Křečovice, Bohemia) was deeply involved and well-trained in music. He learned organ, violin, and piano from his father, Josef Suk senior, and was trained further in violin by the Czech violinist Antonín Bennewitz. His theory studies were conducted with several other composers including Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Karel Knittl, and Karel Stecker. He later focused his writing on chamber works under the teachings of Hanuš Wihan.[1] Despite extensive musical training, his musical skill was often said to be largely inherited.[2] Though he continued his lessons with Wihan another year after the completion of his schooling, Suk's greatest inspiration came from another of his teachers, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.[3]

Known as one of Dvořák's favorite pupils, Suk also became personally close to his mentor.[4] Underlying this was Dvořák's respect for Suk, reflected in Suk's 1898 marriage to Dvořák's daughter, Otilie, marking some of the happiest times in the composer's life and music.[5] However, the last portion of Suk's life was punctuated with tragedy.[6] Over the span of 14 months around 1905, not only did Suk's mentor Dvořák die, but so did Otilie. These events inspired Suk's Asrael Symphony.

Because of a shared heritage—and the coincidence of their dying within a few months of one another—Suk has been closely compared, in works and style, to fellow Czech composer Otakar Ostrčil.[7] Suk, alongside Vitezslav Novak and Ostrčil, is considered one of the leading composers in Czech Modernism, with much shared influence among the three coming in turn from Dvořák.[8] Eminent German figures such as composer Johannes Brahms and critic Eduard Hanslick recognized Suk's work during his time with the Czech Quartet.[3] Over time, well known Austrian composers such as Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg also began to take notice of Suk and his work.[4]

Although he wrote mostly instrumental music, Suk occasionally branched out into other genres. Orchestral music was his strong suit, notably the Serenade for Strings, Op. 6 (1892).[3] His time with the Czech Quartet, though performing successful concerts until his retirement,[3] was not always met with public approval. Several anti-Dvořák campaigns came into prominence; criticism not only being directed at the quartet, but towards Suk specifically. The leftist critic Zdeněk Nejedlý accused the Czech Quartet of inappropriately playing concerts in the Czech lands during World War I. While these attacks diminished Suk's spirits, they did not hinder his work.[9]

Suk retired in 1933,[3] although he continued to be a valuable and inspirational public figure to the Czechs.[10] He died on May 29, 1935, in Benešov, Czechoslovakia.

Suk is the grandfather of the famous Czech violinist Josef Suk.[11]

Musical style[edit]

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Suk's musical style started off with a heavy influence from his mentor, Dvořák. The biggest change of Suk's style came after he reached a "dead end" in his early musical style (music played less of a role in Suk's life outside of his schooling[3]), just before he began a stylistic shift during 1897–1905, perhaps realizing that the strong influence of Dvořák would limit his work.[4] Morbidity was always a large factor in Suk's music. For instance, he wrote his own funeral march in 1889 and it appears significantly also in a major work, the "funeral symphony" Asrael, Op. 27. Ripening, a symphonic poem, was also a story of pain and questioning the value of life. Other works, however – such as the music he set to Julius Zeyer's drama Radúz a Mahulena – display his happiness, which he credited to his marriage with Otilie. Another of Suk's works, Pohádka (Fairy Tale), was drawn from his work with Radúz a Mahulena. The closest Suk came to opera is in his incidental music to the play Pod jabloní (Beneath the Apple Tree).[12]

The majority of Suk's papers are kept in Prague. There is also a new catalogue of Suk's works that contains more manuscripts than any before it, some of them also containing sketches by Suk.[13]

Suk said of himself: "I do not bow to anyone, except to my own conscience and to our noble Lady Music… and yet at the same time I know that thereby I serve my country, and praise the great people from the period of our wakening who taught us to love our country."[14]

ist of compositions by Josef Suk.[1]

Life and Dreams, Op. 30 (Z̆ivotem a snem ; Zhiznʼ i grezy)

1. Zivotem a snem (Life and Dream)
2. Restlessly and shyly, without strong expression (2:37)
3. Mysteriously and very light (4:31)
4. Contemplatively, then increasingly aggressive (8:41)
5. On the Recovery of my Son, with deep emotion (12:42)
6. With expression of quiet, carefree, good humor (18:26)
7. Simply - later with expression of oppressive power (22:23)
8. Gently, chirpingly (26:35)
9. Whispering and mysteriously (28:47)
10. To the forgotten graves in the corner of the Krecovic (32:53)

Margaret Fingerhut, piano
Genre Opus Date Czech title (original title) English title Scoring Remarks
Chamber music 1882 Polka G dur Polka in G major for violin and piano  
Piano 1883 Sonáta C dur Sonata in C major for piano  
Piano 1884–1885 Ouvertura Overture for piano  
Piano 1886–1887 Polonaise C moll Polonaise in C minor for piano  
Piano 1886–1887 Jindřichohradecký cyklus
• Příjezd do Hradce
• Svatební pochod Milky se slečnou Krásovou
• Vchod do rytířského sídla Milky
• Vyplazené jazýčky
Jindřichův Hradec Cycle for piano  
Piano 1886–1887 Skladba bez názvu B dur Untitled Piece in B major for piano  
Piano 1886–1887 Skladba bez názvu G dur Untitled Piece in G major for piano  
Orchestral 1888 Fantasie D moll Fantasy in D minor for string orchestra  
Piano 1888 Fuga C moll Fugue in C minor for piano  
Chamber music 1888 Smyčcový kvartet D moll String Quartet in D minor for 2 violins, viola and cello  
Choral 1888–1889 Křečovická mše B dur Křečovice Mass in B major for chorus, string orchestra and organ revised 1932
Chamber music 2 1889 Klavírní trio C moll Piano Trio in C minor for violin, cello and piano revised 1890–1891
Orchestral 1889 Smuteční pochod C moll Marche triste in C minor for string orchestra  
Chamber music 1890 Balada D moll Ballade in D minor for 2 violins, viola and cello  
Chamber music 1890 Balada D moll Ballade in D minor for violin and piano  
Chamber music 3 1890 2 Skladby
  1. Balada D moll
  2. Serenáda A dur
2 Pieces
  1. Ballade in D minor
  2. Serenade in A major
for cello and piano revised 1898
Chamber music 1890 Fantazie D moll Fantasy in D minor for 2 violins, viola and cello (and piano ad libitum)  
Chamber music 1890 Fuga C moll Fugue in C minor for 2 violins, viola and cello also for piano
Piano 1890 Fuga C moll Fugue in C minor for piano also for string quartet
Vocal 1890 Hory, doly, samý květ   for voice and piano  
Chamber music 1 1891 Klavírní kvartet A moll Piano Quartet in A minor for violin, viola, cello and piano  
Vocal 1891 Noc byla krásná The Night Was Beautiful for voice and piano  
Piano 1891 3 Písně beze slov
  1. Lístek do památníku
  2. Snění
  3. Melodie
3 Songs without Words
  1. Album Leaf
  2. Dreaming
  3. Melody
for piano  
Vocal 1891 Ukolébavka Lullaby for child's voice and piano  
Orchestral 4 1891–1892 Dramatická ouvertura A moll Dramatic Overture in A minor for orchestra  
Vocal 1892 Ach, wärst du mein Oh, would you be mine? for voice and piano  
Piano 5 1892 Fantazie-polonéza C dur Fantasy-Polonaise in C major for piano  
Orchestral 6 1892 Serenáda pro smyčcové nástroje Es dur Serenade for Strings in E major for string orchestra  
Piano 7 1891–1893 6 Klavírních skladeb
  1. Píseň lásky
  2. Humoreska
  3. Vzpomínky
  4. Dvě idylky
  5. Dumka
  6. Capriccietto
6 Piano Pieces
  1. Song of Love in D major
  2. Humoresque in G minor/B major
  3. Souvenir in C minor
  4. 2 Little Idylls in F major and F minor
  5. Dumka in D major
  6. Capriccietto in A minor
for piano  
Piano 1893 Capriccietto G dur Capriccietto in G major for piano  
Chamber music 8 1893 Klavírní kvintet G moll Piano Quintet in G minor for 2 violins, viola, cello and piano revised 1915
Chamber music 1893 Melodie Melody for 2 violins  
Piano 1894 Humoreska C dur Humoresque in C major for piano  
Orchestral 9 1894 Pohádka zimního večera, Předehra Tale of a Winter's Eve for orchestra Overture after Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale; revised 1926
Piano 10 1895 5 Nálad
  1. Legenda
  2. Capriccio
  3. Romance
  4. Bagatela
  5. Jarní idyla
5 Moods
  1. Legend in D major
  2. Capriccio in E minor
  3. Romance in B major
  4. Bagatelle in A major
  5. Spring Idyll in E major
for piano  
Piano 1895 Lístek do památníku F dur Album Leaf in F major for piano  
Choral 1896 Nechte cizí, mluvte vlastní řečí Leave strangers, speak your own language for male chorus  
Chamber music 11 1896 Smyčcový kvartet č. 1 B dur String Quartet No. 1 in B major for 2 violins, viola and cello  
Piano 12 1895–1896 8 Klavírních skladeb
  1. D moll
  2. F dur
  3. Des dur
  4. Gis moll
  5. As dur
  6. A moll
  7. Es dur
  8. D moll
8 Piano Pieces
  1. D minor
  2. F major
  3. D major
  4. G minor
  5. A major
  6. A minor
  7. E major
  8. D minor
for piano  
Piano 1897 Sonatina G moll Sonatina in G minor for piano revised as Op. 21; Andante included in 4 Episodes
Piano 1897 Vesnická serenáda F dur Village Serenade in F major for piano  
Piano 1898 Bagatela G dur Bagatelle in G major for piano arrangement of the original 3rd movement of Symphonie, Op. 14
Orchestral 13 1897–1898 Radúz a Mahulena Radúz and Mahulena for alto, tenor, narrators, chorus and orchestra Music for Julius Zeyer's Fairy-Tale Play; revised 1912
Orchestral 14 1897–1899 Symfonie E dur Symphony in E major for orchestra  
Choral 15 1899 10 Zpěvů
  1. Žal
  2. Tužba
  3. Společný hrob
  4. Pastýři na jaro
  5. Divná voda
  6. Víly
  7. Pastýř a pastýřka
  8. Zpomínky
  9. Choutka po vdaní
  10. Kéž by věděli
10 Songs for female chorus and piano 4-hands  
Orchestral 16 1899–1900 Pohádka
  1. O věrném milování Radúze a Mahuleny a jejich strastech
  2. Intermezzo – Hra na labutě a pávy
  3. Intermezzo – Smuteční hudba
  4. Runy kletba a jak byla láskou zrušena
Fairy Tale
  1. The Constant Love of Radúz and Mahulena and Their Trials
  2. Intermezzo – Playing at Swans and Peacocks
  3. Intermezzo – Funeral Music
  4. Runa's Curse and How It Was Broken by True Love
for orchestra Suite from Julius Zeyer's Fairy-Tale Play Radúz a Mahulena
Chamber music 17 1900 4 Skladby
  1. Quasi ballata
  2. Appassionato
  3. Un poco triste
  4. Burleska
4 Pieces
  1. Quasi ballata
  2. Appassionato
  3. Un poco triste
  4. Burlesque
for violin and piano  
Choral 18 1900 4 Zpěvy
  1. Bán varaždinský a král Matyáš
  2. Raněný
  3. Klid se tratí
  4. Chuďas
4 Songs for male chorus  
Choral 19 1900 3 Zpěvy
  1. Zavedený ovčák
  2. Mať moja
  3. Stasa čarodějnice
3 Songs for chorus and piano ad libitum  
Choral 20 1900–1901 Pod jabloní
• Bacchanale
• Píseň Danici
• Sbory blažených
• Zpěvy andělů
• Živanova touha
Beneath the Apple Tree for alto, narrators, chorus and orchestra revised 1911, 1915
Piano 21 1900 Suita
  1. Adagio – Allegro vivace
  2. Minuetto
  3. Dumka
  4. Allegro ma non troppo
Suite
  1. Adagio – Allegro vivace in G minor
  2. Minuetto in G major
  3. Dumka in E major
  4. Allegro ma non troppo in G minor
for piano  
Piano 22a 1902 Jaro
  1. Jaro
  2. Vánek
  3. V očekávání
  4. Andante
  5. V roztoužení
Spring
  1. Spring in E major
  2. The Breeze in C major
  3. In Expectation in G major
  4. Andante in A minor
  5. Lovesickness in D major
for piano  
Piano 22b 1902 Letní dojmy
  1. V poledne
  2. Hra dětí
  3. Večerní nálada
Summer Impressions
  1. At Midday in B major
  2. Child's Play in G major
  3. Evening Mood in G major
for piano  
Chamber music 23 1902 Elegie „pod dojmem Zeyerova Vyšehradu“ Elegy "Under the Impression of Julius Zeyer's Vyšehrad" for violin solo, cello solo, string quartet, harmonium and harp also in a shortened version for violin, cello and piano
Vocal 1902 Mé ženě! To My Wife for voice and piano  
Concertante 24 1902–1903 Fantazie G moll Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra  
Orchestral 25 1902–1903 Fantastické scherzo G moll Fantastic Scherzo in G minor for orchestra  
Orchestral 26 1904 Praga Praga for orchestra Symphonic Poem
Orchestral 27 1905–1906 „Asrael“ Symfonie C moll Asrael Symphony in C minor for orchestra  
Choral 1907 Hospodin jest můj pastýř The Lord Is My Shepherd  
Piano 28 1907 O matince
  1. Když byla matinka ještě děvčátkem
  2. Kdysi z jara
  3. Jak zpívala matinka za noci chorému děcku
  4. O matinčině srdci
  5. Vzpomínání
About Mother
  1. When Mother Was Still a Little Girl in B major
  2. Once in Springtime in F major
  3. How Mother Sang at Night to a Sick Child in B minor
  4. Mother's Heart in D major
  5. Remembering in C major
for piano 5 Pieces
Orchestral 29 1908–1909 Pohádka léta
  1. Hlasy života a útěchy
  2. V poledne
  3. Intermezzo – Slepí hudci
  4. V moci přeludů
  5. Noc
A Summer's Tale
  1. Voices of Life and Consolation
  2. Midday
  3. Intermezzo – The Blind Musicians
  4. Chimera-Bound
  5. Night
for orchestra Symphonic Poem
Piano 1909 Psina španělská Spanish Caprice for piano  
Piano 30 1909 Životem a snem
  1. S humorem a ironií, místy rozdurděně
  2. Neklidně a nesměle, bez silnějšího výrazu
  3. Tajemně a velmi vzdušně
  4. Zamyšleně, později stále výbojněji
  5. K uzdravení mého syna – Klidně, s hlubokým citem
  6. S výrazem tiché, bezstarostné veselosti
  7. Jednoduše – Později s výrazem drtivé moci
  8. Jemně, švitorně
  9. Šepotavě a tajemně
  10. Zapomenutým rovům v koutku hřbitova Křečovického – Snivě
Things Lived and Dreamed
  1. With Wit and Irony, Fuming in Places in G major
  2. Restlessly and Shyly, without Strong Emotion in A major
  3. Mysteriously and Very Light in F major
  4. Contemplatively, Then Increasingly Aggressive in D major
  5. On the Recovery of My Son – Calmly, with Deep Emotion in C major
  6. With Expression of Quiet, Carefree Good Humor in B major
  7. Simply – Later with Expression of Oppressive Power in F minor
  8. Gently, Chirpingly in E major
  9. Whisperingly and Mysteriously in B minor
  10. To the Forgotten Graves in the Corner of the Křečovice Churchyard – Dreamily in F minor
for piano 10 Pieces; a.k.a. Life and Dreams
Chamber music 31 1911 Smyčcový kvartet č. 2 String Quartet No. 2 for 2 violins, viola and cello  
Chamber music   Tempo di Minuetto G dur Tempo di Minuetto in G major for 2 violins, viola and cello rewriting of Minuet from Sonatina for piano
Choral 32 1911–1912 Mužské sbory
  1. Zoťatá breza
  2. Pěšinka
  3. Ukolébavka
  4. a. V krásném lese
    b. Za hory se slunce chýlí
    c. Svítí hvězdy
    d. Strmí hruška
  5. Nebezpečná cesta
Male Choruses
  1.  
  2.  
  3. Lullaby
  4. a.
    b.
    c.
    d.
  5.  
for male chorus  
Piano 33 1910–1912 Ukolébavky
  1. Nad spícími děcky
  2. Popěvek
  3. Sentimentální sebeparodie na pouliční písničku
  4. K uzdravení
  5. Vánoční sen dítěte
  6. Smrti, přijď jen tiše!
Lullabies
  1. Sleeping Children in F major
  2. Ditty in G major
  3. Sentimental Self-Parody on a Popular Song in A major
  4. Return to Health in A major
  5. A Child's Christmas Dream in E minor
  6. Death, Come But Softly! in C major
for piano  
Orchestral 34 1912–1917 Zrání Ripening for orchestra Symphonic Poem
Orchestral 1915–1917 Cyklus symfonických básní z českých dějin
• Blaník
• Česká žena a český muž – Libuše a Přemysl
• Jan Ámos Komenský
• Jan Hus
• Příchod Čechův na Říp
Cycle of Symphonic Poems from Czech History
• Blaník
 Přemysl and Libuše – Czech Husband and Wife
 Jan Ámos Komenský
 Jan Hus
• Arrival of the Czechs on Říp Mountain
for orchestra  
Orchestral 35a 1914 Meditace na staročeský chorál „Svatý Václave“ Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "St. Wenceslas" for string orchestra also for string quartet
Chamber music 35a 1914 Meditace na staročeský chorál „Svatý Václave“ Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "St. Wenceslas" for 2 violins, viola and cello also for string orchestra
Chamber music 1915 Smyčcová věta B dur Quartet Movement "Allegro giocoso" in B major for 2 violins, viola and cello revision of the finale of String Quartet No. 1
Chamber music 1917 Bagatela „S kyticí v ruce“ Bagatelle "With Nosegay in Hand" for flute, violin and piano  
Chamber music 1919? Minuet Minuet for violin and piano  
Orchestral 35b 1919–1920 Legenda o mrtvých vítězích, Pamětní skladba Legend of the Dead Victors for orchestra Commemoration Piece
Orchestral 35c 1919–1920 V nový život, Slavnostní pochod Sokolský C dur Towards a New Life in C major for orchestra Festive Sokol March
Piano 36 1920 O přátelství Ges dur Friendship in G major for piano a.k.a. About Friendship
Choral 37 1920–1929 Epilog Epilogue for soprano, baritone, bass, chorus and orchestra revised 1929–1933
Chamber music 1923 Barkarola – Andante con moto B dur Barcarolle – Andante con moto in B major for 2 violins, viola and cello revision of the 2nd movement of String Quartet (1888)
Vocal 1924 O štědrém dni Christmas Day for 2 voices and violin  
Piano  
1897
1909
1919/1920
1923
4 Episody
  1. Andante
  2. Ella Polka
  3. Lístek do památníku
  4. O štědrém dni
4 Episodes
  1. Andante
  2. Ella Polka
  3. Album Leaf
  4. Christmas Day in G major
for piano  
1. Andante movement from Sonatina, Op. 13
Orchestral 1932 Pod Blaníkem, Pochod Beneath Blaník for orchestra March
Chamber music 1935 Sousedská Sousedská for 5 violins, double bass, cymbals, triangle, side drum and bass drum  
Piano 1935 Sousedská Sousedská for piano

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