Booklet, Czechs and Slovaks -- [Unknown date]Czechoslovak Art and Literature in America. By Dr. Jaroslav E. S. Vojan.
p.69. Music--To date, of Czechoslavonic artistic culture it is music that America knows best. This is only natural. Music needs no translator, as does literature, it can be performed anywhere by homebred talent, and requires no expensive transportation to expositions, as painting and sculpture do, and finally--in world cultural competition we have reached the universal level first, and in the most excellent manner, through the merits of Smetana and Dvorak.
The year of 1892 is, for us, a memorable one, as it brought Anton Dvorak upon the American soil for a sojourn of three years.2
Mrs. Jeanette M. Thurber, the founder of the National Conservatory in New York, offered to him the position as director of that conservatory, Dvorak accepted and arrived in New York Tuesday, September 27, 1892. His first American work was his most precious gift to America, the Fifth Symphony in E - Minor, op. 95 "From the New World," (composed between Jan. 10 and May 25, 1893.) "There is in it the spirit of Negro and Indian melodies, but I have not used any of these. I wrote my own characteristic themes, instilling into them the peculiarities of Indian and plantation music," said Dvorak to the representative of the New York Herald, "but except for this touch, this is, and will remain Czech music," as he frequently used to state. The premiere was on the 16 of December, 1893 in Carnegie Hall under the baton of Anton Seidl. Dvorak spent his first summer vacation in Spillville, Iowa, among his Czech fellow-countrymen. There he wrote the string quartetto (the American quartetto), in F - major, op. 96, and the string quintette in E - flat major, op. 97.3
On "Bohemian Day," Aug. 12th, at the World's Fair of 1893, he conducted his Fourth Symphony in G - major and the overture to the play Jos. Kajetan Tyl. During the school year in New York he wrote the Sonatina in G - major for violin and piano op. 100 (the second, slow movement is often played in Kreisler's arrangement under the title "Indian Lament," which is rather correct, as Dvorak jotted down the idea on his cuff, at his view of the Minnehaha waterfall in St. Paul, on his return trip from the World's Fair), the Suite for piano in A - major, and the "Biblical Songs." On his second vacation he made a trip to Bohemia, and there, at Vysoka near Pribram, in August, 1894, the "Humoresks" for piano leaped from his pen (eight in number; the famous "Humoresk" is the seventh, it is dated August, 1894, and did not, therefore, originate, as the legend has it, in Iowa.)4
On the 26th of October Dvorak was back in New York and during the third school year he composed the Concerto in B - minor op. 104 for the violoncello and orchestra. On the 27 of April, 1895, he was again in Prague, and saw America no more. Excepting him, only Jaromir Weinberger among the Czech composers, spent a certain time in America after the war.
Of the symphonic works of our composers comparatively little is known up to the present to America. Several compositions are continually repeated every year throughout America by symphony-orchestras, and now by radio, principally, Smetana's overture to the "Bartered Bride," and "Vltava" (Moldau), Dvorak's "From the New World," "Carneval," the first and the eighth of the "Slavonic Dances," Suk's polka from "Raduz and Mahulena," and now the polka furiant from Weinberger's "Svanda". Now and then, infrequently, some other compositions of his are played, but nothing is performed of all others. One of the main reasons for this is that up to the present, none of the Czech orchestra leaders has been here as a guest, and the resident German, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian and Polish conductors do not care to propagate Czech music.5
Things are better in the realm of chamber music. Of the operas only Smetana's "Bartered Bride" (first performed by the Metropolitan Opera in New York on the 19 of February, 1909 with Emmy Destinn and under the direction of Mahler), "Tenufa" by Leos Janacek (First performed on December 6, 1924 in the same house) and "Svanda Dudak" by Jaromir Weinberger (first performed on November 7, 1931, also by the Metropolitan Opera Co.), have been produced all three in German translation.
We have performed much more with our own Czech-American amateur talent. Smetana's "Bartered Bride" and "Hubicka" (The Kiss) have been given many times in Chicago, (The "Bartered Bride" first given during the World's Fair on August 20th, 1893, by the Ludvik Theatrical Group, under the stage direction of Jos. Smaha of the National Theatre (Frague), J. H. Capek conducting, and then several times during and after the war by the singing society "Bedrich Smetana," first performed on the 24 of February, 1918, in the hall of "Sokol Chicago, " Hubicka was first given on April 17th, 1921 in the Blackstone Theatre, both under the baton of Stephan A. Erst, and "Dalibor" under Kubin); in New York (Pev. Odbor Tel. Jed. 6Sokol first produced the "Bartered Bride at the Central Opera House on May 12, 1894) and in Cleveland (the combined Czech singing societies gave "The Bartered Bride" on the first, fourteenth and twenty-first of January, 1917, and later it was produced in the cycle "Theatres of the Nations," sponsored by the newspaper Plain Dealer on March 2, 1930); Blodek's opera "V Studni" was also produced several times. Through the merits of the singing societies our public became acquainted with innumerable works of Czech masters. The Bohemian Art Club in Chicago celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its birth by a concert at the Orchestra Hall, on November 18, 1931, in which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Frederick Stock played the entire cycle of Smetana's symphonic poems "Ma Vlast" (My Homeland) for the first time.
The Czech composer Rudolf Friml, who lives in America, has become well known through his compositions of light operas, deferring to the taste of those Americans who love light music, and J. S. Zamecnik, from Cleveland, a graduate of the Conservatory of Prague, who is now in Hollywood, is known by some smaller works.7
Aside from these, almost every active Czech and Slovak musician in America has a series of compositions of his own.
Of the performing artists who came here as guests from the old country those who have most contributed to the fame of the Czech name are the violin virtuoso Jan Kubelik and the singer Emmy Destinn, the greatest Czech dramatic soprano to date, who has appeared here in ten seasons since 1908. In close succession to these artists it is fitting to mention Karel Burian the tenor, Boza Umirov, baritone, and Pavel Ludikar, basso, Jar. Kocian and Vasa Prihoda, violinists, and Professor Sevcik. A memorable event was the three months' tour undertaken by the Pevecke Sdruzeni Prazskych Ucitelu, (Prague Teachers' Singing Association) who gave forty-three concerts under the direction of Metod Dolezil, from Jan. 5 to March 21 in 1929.
Great is the number of Czech and Slovak musicians who have settled permanently in this country. There are several in every symphonic orchestra and in every band with wind-instruments; some conduct schools, some are choir conductors, organists, choir singers, etc. The size of this commemorative booklet permits the mention of only a few.8
Besides Zamecnik there are in Cleveland two graduates of the Prague Conservatory, Karel Rychlik and Ed. Krejsa, all three former pupils of Antonin Dvorak. Jan Reindl came to New York in 1869 with the Russian "Slavjanski" choir (he died in New York in 1906.) The violin virtuoso and teacher Jos. Horymir Capek died in Chicago last year. Jos. J. Kovarik, native of Spillville, Iowa, whom the Russian orchestra leader Safonov proclaimed to be one of the best viola players in America, (he is still a member of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra) was inseparably allied with Dvorak during the latter's stay in America. Vaclav A. Raboch was an excellent organ player in New York. The Ersts are a rare example of three generations of graduates of the Prague Conservatory: Stephen Erst finished his study of the clarinet in 1846, his son Adolf graduated as a singer in 1883 and the grandson as a pianist in 1910. Victor Kolar, violinist, devoted himself to cenducting and is now with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.9
The cornet player Bohumr Kryl with his "band" has gained popularity in numerous states. From the musical Ondricek family it was the famous virtuoso Frantisek Ondricek, who came to the United States in 1895, the violinist Karel Ondricek lived in Boston and is now in California, the violinist Emanuel Ondricek lives in the East. In October 1922, the New York String Quartette (Ottokar Capek, Jaroslav Siskovsky, Ludwig Schwab and Bedrich Vaska) was formed and is still active. The "Ceske Trio" (J. Gregor, Olda Jirousek and Vladimir Polivka) is no longer in existence. Polivka now lives in Prague, the other two in Chicago. Polivka composed on his sojourn here his suite for piano "Dni v Chicagu" (Days in Chicago), "Plantation Songs" for male chorus and other works. There are more than a dozen Czechs in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with violin concertmaster J. Weicher and the concertmaster contrabasso players Vac. Jiskra and J. Houdek at the first desks. In other symphony orchestras there are the contrabasso player Kuchynka, the harp player Attl and others.10
In Chicago the violinist, George Hrusa, has his own string quartetto and conducts his pupils' orchestra. Director Fr. Kubina conducts the "Ces. Del. Pev. Sbor Lyra" and the "Ustredni Pevecka Jednota" in Chicago. Of the older violinists we must mention Vilim and Machek, also of Chicago; Mr. Havelka, soprano and A. M. Hess, tenor, Mrs. Ella Spravka Umirov, pianiste, and Mrs. Cada Soustka, organiste; the pianiste Marie Mik of Los Angeles, Antoinette Machan of Akron, Ohio. Among the Slovak artists of Chicago we must mention Vladimir G. Sasko, pianist, and Papanek, violinist; Marienka Halsma, mezzo-soprano, and the violinist Dvone of New York.
Fine Arts.--To this day America knows very little of the Fine Arts of our old homeland. The great canvas "Columbus Before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel" by Vaclav Brozik hangs in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was reproduced on the five cent postal stamp (Columbus issue 1893) during the first Chicago World's Fair.11
Alphonse Mucha lectured at the Art Institute in Chicago, where five paintings from his "Slavonic Epic," created under the sponsorship of Crane, Chicago lover of art, were exhibited in 1920 (also in Brooklyn).
At the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 the Czech artists were introduced in America as "Austrians." Svabinsky's "Divka u Stavu" remained here, having been bought for San Francisco, where the beautiful work was destroyed during the earthquake and conflagration. The etcher, T. F. Simon, whose creations found their way into the United States and gained much favor here, visited this country during his trip around the world in the fall of 1926, and then created a whole series of American colored etchings. He described his experiences in the book "Leaves from the Trip Around the World" (Prague, Otto, 1928) which contains a series of American drawings. V. Preissig, also an etcher, lived in Boston for several years, but has now returned to Bohemia.12
In addition to this, America at times makes acquaintance with some works of Czech art in the expositions arranged here and there, but it has, up to the present, no adequate conception of Czech Fine Arts.
Of the Czech-American exponents of fine arts, Emanuel V. Nadherny was a member of the staff of illustrators for the cosmopolitan New York Herald for twenty-five years. Rudolf Ruzicka gained a reputation as a master-woodcutter in New York. Also of New York are J. C. Vondrous, creater of beautiful etchings, and Jos. M. Korbel, the sculptor, and creator of the Karel Jonas Monument in Racine, Wisconsin. In Chicago there has always been a fairly large community of representatives of fine arts--the painters Aug. Petrtyl, Jarka Kosar, Oldrich Farsky, the professors of Chicago Art Institute: the painter, A. Sterba and the sculptor Albin Polasek, whose excellent work the "Sower" is in the Art Institute, "Music" opposite Orchestra Hall, and "Mother" in the Czech National Cemetery; the graphic artist K. A. Wilimovsky; the excellent landscape painter Rudolf F. Ingerle; and of the younger artists are to mention the painters Cestmir J. Svoboda, who painted the cover page of this memorial booklet, Jos. Tomanek, who decorated the court hall of the "Sokol Slavsky," Fr. J. Gavensky, Ant. Vozech, the sculptor 13of Wilson's Masaryk's, and Cermak's busts in the Czech National Cemetery; Froula, Behensky, Rudolf, and, of the youngest set, Ropp, Vetr, Buchta, Brozek, Sahula and others. Among the Czech architects who became prominent are Dibelka, Randak, Kalal, Mrazek and others.
Literature--In America Czech and Slovak literature is, alas, the least known. In looking through the Bohemian Bibliography by Thomas Capek and wife, (New York, Revell Co., 1918), and its complement in this memorial by Mrs. Capek, we observe that pitifully little has been translated of our great poets and writers. There is no American, who would have learned the Czech language, so difficult for him, adequately enough to enable him to translate from it, and we immigrants, absorbed in the struggle for an existence on one hand and by the particular work of preserving the Czech tongue and mode of life in this new homeland on the other, did not find the time for it.14
Not until after the war have there appeared in England translators of Czech, and here in America the second generation is beginning to take an interest in this work (see Ginsburg's translations in Mrs. Capek's Bibliography). Karel Capek's drama "R. U. R," played successfully in England as well as in America, contributed to the English language the new word "robot."
Of Czech writers who have spent some time in the United States it behooves us to mention Jos. V. Sladek, Paul Albieri, V. A. Jung and Jos. Mach. The post Sladek sojourned here for two years, and in the winter of 1868-69, on the farm of a Moravian settler Nechuta-Travnicek in Caledonia, near Racine, Wisconsin, then still a primeval forest, he translated excellently Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" (the authentic third translation published by Sladek at Otto's in 1909). Albieri (Jan Mucek) arrived in America in 1889, in 1895 he was secretary of the Narodopisna Vystava (Ethnographic Exposition) in Prague, but returned to the United States after two years, and in October 1901 was killed by a train in Texas.15
His novels "Nevesta za 50 dollaru" (The Bride for 50 Dollars) (1897), "Z Americkych Toulek" (From Ramblings in America) and others, have American subjects, but often grossly garble realities. The same is to be said of Jung's "Na Prahu Noveho Sveta" (On the Threshold of the New World). His "Rodina Petra Bela" (The Family of Peter Bel) (both Prague "Cas" 1903) is much better. Jung came to America in 1881, lived for twenty years in Omaha, Wilber, and Cedar Rapids, and then returned home. (At the time of his death he was a professor of the Academy of Commerce in Plzen). It is of importance to know that his splendid translation of Pushkin's "Onegin" originated in America (First edition 1892, Prague, Otto; the third authentic edition in the same city in 1919, the fourth bore a more Russian title "Jevgenij Onegin"). Jos. Mach published verses "Na obou Polokoulich (On Both Hemispheres) (Chicago, 1918, Spravedlnost bookstore). After the war he entered the service of the ministry of foreign affairs and now lives in Prague. Jan Havlasa and Karel Horky, also lived in America for some time.16
Every one of the Czech-Americans who was active in journalism wrote some verses. Of those who used to climb Parnas more ardently it behooves to mention at least Jan V. Capek, Bartos Bittner, Alois Janda, Jarka Kosar, J. Ort, Ferd. L. Musil, the czergymen Jan Vranek and Jan St. Broz, A. Jecminka Hrazecky. Of the literati who wrote in prose, from short stories to longer novels we mention F. J. Skaloud, J. A. Trojan, Otokar Charvat, Harris Zachar (V. Minibergr), J. S. Zeman, and the most prolific of them, whose stories and novels are being published in Bohemia, R. Jar. Psenka.
Thomas Capek of New York is the historian of Czech America. His extensive work in English "The Czechs (Bohemians) in America" (New York, 1920, 278 pages) and in Czech "Nase America" (Our America) (Prague, 1926, 636 pages) are the principal sources of correct information about Czechs and Slovaks in the United States.17
Concurrent with these is his work on the beginning of Czech immigration, on the first half century of the Czech press in America, and a meritorious bibliography of all Bohemian in English. Dr. Jaroslav E. S. Vojan published "Cesko Americke Epistoly", Chicago 1911, in which he dealt with several main Czech-American questions. The "Kulturni prinosy Cechu do Ameriky" (Cultural Contributions of the Czechs to America) was recently written by Dr. A. J. Zizka, O. S. B. There were also some smaller works published by Jos. Jiri Kral.
Amateur societies and choirs were founded in a large number of American cities. The amateurs began with "Besedas", the first founded in St. Louis, in the spring of 1859, then in Racine, Wis. on the 14th of October, 1861. In Chicago, the first amateur activities began Feb. 22, 1863, with the presentation of a light play "Pan Strejcek" by Bendix.18
Cleveland began Nov. 16, 1863, and New York followed within a year. The highest level was reached by the "Cesky Delnicky Pevecky Sbor" (Czech Workingmen's Choir, Chicago) (founded Dec. 19th, 1890) which merged with the "Lyra" on the 28th of December 1919; it made two concert tours in Bohemia in the summertime of 1928 and 1932. The first theatrical activity in Chicago was begun by the group of Frantisek Ludvik, April 30th, 1893; in the year of the first World's Fair, Kolar's "Kralovna Barbora" was performed in the Haymarket Theatre. After the death of Director Ludvik, his wife, Bohumila Ludvik, took charge. She died last year. Save in Chicago there are only amateur theatres. The Slovak amateurs in Chicago will produce Stodola's drama "Kral Svatopluk" this year, during the exposition week. The combined Czech players will give Zelensky's "Rebelantska Krev."19
The only association in America today, that sustains the contacts among local Czech and Slovak musicians, painters, sculptors, architects, actors, men of letters and newspapermen is the "Cesky Vmelecky Klub" (Bohemian Art Club) in Chicago, founded in January, 1912, with Dr. Vojan as the first president. The club has arranged a number of big concerts already (Prihoda's, Ludikar's, Umirov's, and others) and five exhibitions of paintings and plastics by its members.
There remains now the screen. Rudolf Myzet, film actor is one of the sixteen Czech-Americans, who are active in Hollywood studios, the other Bohemians being Jan Petr, Otto Lederer, Robert Rose, Helen Benda, Geraldine Dvorak, the composers Friml and Zamecnik, the sculptor Cyril Jurecek, the producing manager Paul Kohner, the painters Ludvik Leo, Fr. V. Caka, Fr. Drdlik and Jirka Strimpel, the cameraman, F. Povolny and the artistic director Fred. M. Srsen. Fr. Lederer after a strong histrionic success in New York is now working in Hollywood on his first American film.
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