Josef Bohuslav Foerster

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Foerster, Josef Bohuslav


Born Dec. 30, 1859, in Prague; died May 29, 1951, in Vestec. Czech composer, teacher, and music critic. People’s Artist of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1945).

Foerster graduated from the Organ School in Prague in 1882. From 1882 to 1888 he worked as a church organist, and from 1889 to 1894 he directed a church choir. As a music critic, Foerster supported B. Smetana, thus helping to establish the Czech classical tradition. In 1901, Foerster began teaching in Hamburg and from 1903 to 1918 he taught in Vienna. In 1919 he became a professor at the Prague Conservatory, and from 1922 to 1931 he was a professor at the conservatory’s Master School. From 1931 to 1939, Foerster headed the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Although Foerster came under the influence of modernism, as manifested by the complexity of some of his works, his music, on the whole, followed the democratic and realistic trend of Czech classical music. The influence of Tchaikovsky can also be seen in his compositions. Foerster’s Quartet No. 1 for Strings (1888) is dedicated to Tchaikovsky.

Foerster wrote six operas, including Deborah (1891), Eva (1897), and The Simpleton (1936, based on a story by L. N. Tolstoy), as well as five symphonies, six orchestral suites, and two overtures. His works also include concerti, pieces for instrumental ensembles, piano and voice compositions—his choral works are outstanding—melodramas, and incidental theater music.


E. H. Grieg. Prague, 1890.
Stůl života. [Prague] 1920.
J. B. Foerster o B. Smetanovi. [Prague] 1929.
Der Pilger. Prague [1955].


Belza, I. “Iozef Boguslav Ferster.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1950, no. 12.
Belza, I. Ocherki razvitiia cheshskoi muzykal’noi klassiki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951. Pages 317–18, 374–77, 437–41, 500–03.