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Josef Suk (4 January, 1874 – 29 May, 1935) was a Czech composer and violinist. Suk was born in Krušovice. He studied at Prague Conservatory from 1885 to 1892, where he was a pupil of Antonín Dvořák and Antonín Bennewitz. In 1898, he married Dvořák’s eldest daughter, Otilie Dvořáková (1878-1905), affectionately known as Otilka. In 1901, she bore him their only son, Josef (1901-1951). Otilie died in 1905, and the composer never remarried. The noted violinist Josef Suk (1929-2011) was his grandson.

 

He formed the Czech Quartet with three of his fellow students – Suk played second violin with them for most of his life. From 1922 he taught at the Prague Conservatory where his pupils included Bohuslav Martinů, Rudolf Firkuaný and Manoah Leide-Tedesco. He died in Beneaov.

 

Suk’s early works show the influence of Dvořák and Johannes Brahms, while later pieces use more extended harmonies to create a personal and complex style. Unlike many of his countrymen, he made little use of Czech folk music. His best known works are probably the youthful Serenade for Strings (1892) and the Asrael Symphony in C minor, (1906), a work written in response both to the death in 1904 of his father-in-law, and the next year of his wife. Music critic Norman Lebrecht thought Václav Talich’s 1952 recording of the Asrael Symphony with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra one of the 100 best recordings of the century. Other pieces include the Fairy Tale suite Raduz and Mahulena (1898), the cycle of piano works Things Lived and Dreamed (1909), and the trilogy of symphonic poems A Summer’s Tale (1909), The Ripening (1917) and Epilogue (1929, for soprano, baritone and bass soli, chorus and orchestra). Suk won a silver medal at the Art Competitions during the Olympic Games of 1932 at Los Angeles with his work Toward a New Life.

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