'In art there is no such thing as a goal definitively achieved. Artistic growth is a series of errors, and a search that lasts as long as the artist's life.'
(Václav Talich, 1938)
Václav Talich (28 May 1883 - 16 March 1961) began his career as a talented violinist-first in a student orchestra in Klatovy, then from 1897 to 1903 at the conservatory in Prague where he studied with the celebrated Otakar Sevčík. Finally he served as concert master of the Berlin Philharmonic, where a fateful turning point occurred. That orchestra's chief conductor, Arthur Nikisch, so fascinated the twenty-one-year-old Talich that he decided to become a conductor himself. Then came fifteen years of wandering and gathering experience. In 1905 he worked in
The door to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was opened for Talich by Suk's symphonic poem Zrání (Maturation), whose premiere he conducted on 30 October 1918-two days after the establishment of Czechoslovakia as an independent state. Less than a year later he became the orchestra's chief conductor, and he remained in that position, with a short break in the early 1930s, until 1941. Talich's vision of the future Czech Philharmonic rested on three fundamental pillars: improving its artistic quality, bettering its financial situation, and building a firm basic repertoire. Over the course of several years he indeed succeeded in shaping this provincial ensemble into an outstanding orchestra admired by critics both at home and abroad. They wrote in accord about the beautiful, full sound and extraordinary verve of its strings, the timbral elegance, gentleness, and sheen of its winds, and the disciplined expressivity of its percussion. They described Talich as a conductor who 'comes to the first rehearsal with a conception of the work, approaches the orchestra with unfettered energy and elan, and through persistent, systematic rehearsals brings the ensemble into accord with that conception.' During the 1920s and 1930s Talich's work with the Czech Philharmonic was complemented by intensive collaboration with orchestras in
In the autumn of 1935 Talich was named administrator of the opera of
The dissolution of the Czech Chamber Orchestra shook my faith that honest and selfless work is an indestructible value-a faith that had been the backbone of my life up to that time and to which I had tried to convert all my colleagues. A sense of futility grew and strengthened in me.
The ensuing six years were to prove that his fears were not unwarranted. He was forbidden to conduct in public in the Czech lands, so he worked in
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