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(*25. 2. 1879 Prague — †20. 8. 1935 Prague)

Czech composer and conductor

He studied modern languages at Prague University with Jan Gebauer, Otakar Hostinský and Tomáš Garigue Masaryk. From 1903 to 1919 he worked as a teacher of Czech and German at the Prague Czech-Slavonic Commercial Academy. He studied music privately, piano with Mikeš, later with Fibich. With Fibich he also studied composition and worked as his amanuensis. Together with teaching activity of Novák, Foerster and Suk, Ostrčil was the most influential personality of Czech musical life of that period continuing the tradition of great Czech Romantics of the 19th century. He worked as a conductor of the Academy Choir and Orchestral Association in Prague, later became guest conductor at the National Theatre. In 1920 Ostrčil became Chief of the Opera of the National Theatre. He remained in this function until his death in 1935. In the history of the National Theatre his progressive programme conception and high level of all theatre professions represent one of its most important eras. As a composer he came out of Fibich, he was admirer of Smetana and Mahler. He could use all means of expression of the Romantic composers. He is renowned for his erosion of traditional tonality and tonally free polyphony. His notable orchestral compositions are Pohádka o Šemíku (Tale of Šemík, 1899), symphonic poem after J. Vrchlický, Symphony in A (1905), Impromptu (1911), Suite in c (1912), Symfonietta (1921), symphonic poem Léto (Summer, 1925-6) and the 14 symphonic programatic variations on composer´s own theme Křížová cesta (Calvary or Stations of the Cross, 1928) which are one of the greatest works of Czech music of the 20th century. Ostrčil also composed operas: Kunálovy oči (Kunal´s Eyes, 1908), the one-act singspiel Poupě (The Bud, 1910), Legenda z Erinu (Legend from Erin, 1913-19) after Julius Zeyer, or Honzovo království (Johnny´s Kingdom, 1933), written on the motifs of a tale by L. N. Tolstoy. He wrote two melodramas - Balada o mrtvém ševci a mladé tanečnici (Ballad of the Dead Cobbler and the Young Dancer, 1904) and Balada česká (Czech Ballad, 1905) to the words of Jan Neruda. He composed ballads, e.g. Osiřelo dítě (The Orphaned Child, 1906), ballad for mezzo-soprano and orchestra to the text of a folk-song. Ostrčil´s other outstanding vocal compositions are the male chorus after J. Vrchlický Česká legenda vánoční (Czech Christmas Legend, 1912), the cantata Legenda o svaté Zitě (The Legend of St. Zita, 1913) for tenor solo, mixed choir, orchestra and organ, and Prosté motivy (Simple Motifs, 1922) to the words of Jan Neruda. Sonatina for viola, violin and piano (1925) and String Quartet in B (1899) represent his chamber music.


J. Bartoš: Otakar Ostrčil (Prague, 1936)
F. Pala, V. Pospíšil: Opera Národního divadla v období Otakara Ostrčila (The National Theatre opera in Ostrčil´s time) (Prague, 1962-89)
J. Tyrrell: Czech Opera (Cambridge, 1988)


Variations for Large Orchestra, Op. 24 "Calvary"
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Neumann
CD Supraphon