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suk, josef (1874 - 1935)

Composer, violinist and teacher. The two musicians were very close, both as colleagues and friends. In 1891–92 Suk was Dvorak’s pupil at the Prague Conservatoire and Dvorak also invited him to stay at his summer residence in Vysoka, where Suk prepared piano scores of the Master’s works. It was here that young Suk also had the opportunity to meet up with Dvorak’s daughter Otilka, who later became his wife (the marriage took place on Antonin Dvorak’s and Anna Cermakova’s 25th wedding anniversary, 17 November 1898). Suk and Otilie Dvorakova had a son, Josef (born 1901, later father of the violinist Josef Suk). Dvorak had a clear influence on Suk’s compositional style during the first phase of the latter’s musical development, for instance, in his Serenade for Strings in E flat major and his incidental music for Zeyer’s fairy tale Raduz and Mahulena. Suk’s later characteristic style is markedly different. Fundamental to its transformation was the most tragic period in Suk’s life (1904–5), during which his cherished Master Dvorak suddenly passed away and, after him, also his wife Otilie, who died of heart failure at the age of twenty-seven. The sensitive Suk never entirely recovered from these terrible blows and the intensity of his grief is best expressed in his mourning symphony Asrael, a musical commemoration of Dvorak and Otilka, in whose thematic fabric he cites the central theme from Dvorak’s Requiem.