Josef Bohuslav Foerster

Josef Bohuslav Foerster

Josef Bohuslav Foerster (30 December 1859 – 29 May 1951) was a Czech composer of classical music. He is often referred to as J. B. Foerster. The surname is sometimes spelled Förster.


Foerster was born in Dětenice, in an area called the Bohemian Paradise. His was a musical family normally living in Prague, where his father, a composer also named Josef Foerster, taught at the Conservatory. (His father's students included Franz Lehár. [cite book|last=Greene|first=David Mason|location=Garden City, N.Y.|publisher=Doubleday|title=Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers|pages=979|url=
] ) Josef was educated accordingly, and duly studied there. He also showed an early interest in the theatre, and even thought of becoming an actor. From 1884 he worked as a critic, and he would prove to be a writer of distinction. In 1893 he married the leading Czech soprano Berta Lautererová (Bertha Lauterer) in Hamburg, during ten years making his living there as a critic, and she was engaged at the Hamburg Staatsoper. In 1901 he became a teacher at the Hamburg Conservatory. In 1903 Berta went to sing at the Vienna Hofoper, and so Josef moved there with her, continuing to make a living as a music critic. He returned to Prague on the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, thereafter teaching at the conservatory and the university.

In 1946 he was declared a National Composer. He died in Nový Vestec.


Foerster produced numerous compositions. His music is not nationalistic in the sense of employing the idioms of Czech folk music. His work, words and music, is considered very subjective and personal, mystical and idealistic.

Foerster's opera "Eva", is another example, like Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa, of a libretto based on a play by Gabriela Preissová, though his treatment differs. [cite book|title=The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera|chapter=7: Russian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian Opera to 1900|pages=278|last=Tyrrell|first=John|editor=Roger Parker|date=1994|location=London; New York|publisher=Oxford University Press|isbn=0-19-285445-3|url=,M1

His compositions include five symphonies (in D minor, in F opus 29 (1892-8) , op. 36 , in C minor "Easter Eve" (1905) and no. 5 opus 141 (1929) ), other orchestral works including a symphonic poem based on Cyrano de Bergerac, much chamber music (including five string quartets (in E op. 15, no. 2 op. 39 [cite web|title=British Library Integrated Catalogue|url=|accessdate=2007-09-16] , in C op. 61, in F op. 182 (1943), and the last, written 1950-1, completed by Jan Hanuš cite web|title=Library of Congress OPAC|url=|accessdate=2007-09-16] ); three piano trios, two violin and two cello sonatas, and a several-times-recorded wind quintet), at least five operas (notably Eva), concertos for violoncello (op. 143) and two for violin (op. 88 in C minor (1911) cite web|title=Gateway Bayern OPAC|url=|accessdate=2007-09-16] , op. 104 in D minor), liturgical music, among other works, over 170 published opus numbers in all.

Many of his works remember family members: the 2nd Symphony is dedicated to his sister Marie; his brother's death led to the cantata 'Mortuis fratribus'; his son is commemorated in the Piano Trio and the 5th Symphony; and his mother is a theme throughout his oeuvre.

elected works

*Scherzo for piano, Op. 11
*Erotikon for piano, Op. 23
*Te Deum Laudamus, Op. 32
*Missa in Honorem Sc. Methodii (pub. around 1884), Op. 35 cite web|title=MZK Brno OPAC|url=|accessdate=2007-09-16]
*Choruses for male voices, Op. 37
*Missa bohemica, Op. 38
*Debora (1873), opera, Op. 41
*Lieder der sehnsucht, six songs, Op. 53
*Cyrano de Bergerac, suite for large orchestra, Op. 55
*Stabat mater for mixed chorus and organ, Op. 56
*Slavnostní, overture (1907), Op. 70
*From Shakespeare, for orchestra, Op. 76
*Ballade for violin and orchestra, Op. 92
*Springtime and Desire, for orchestra, Op. 93
*Fantasy for violin and piano, Op. 128
*Impromptu for organ, Op. 135
*Nonet, Op. 147
*Klekání, for chorus and orchestra, Op. 151
*Missa in honorem sanctissimae trinitatis (1940), Op. 170
*Little suite for two violins, Op. 183
*Capriccio for flute and orchestra, Op. 193b [cite web|title=National Library OPAC|publisher=Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands|url=|accessdate=2007-09-17]



*cite book|date=1970|isbn=0-19-311306-6|title=The Oxford Companion to Music|location=London; New York|publisher=Oxford University Press|last=Scholes|first=Percy Alfred|edition=10th Edition
*The Viking Opera Guide

External links

* [ Radio Prague Life of Foerster, with RealAudio examples]

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