Jan Vaclav Vorisek

Category: Musician

Learn more about Jan Vaclav Vorisek

Jan Vaclav Hugo Vorisek; also know as Johann Hugo Worzischek,  (1791, in Vamberk, Bohemia – 1825, in Vienna, Austria) was a Czech composer, pianist and organist.


Vorisek was born in the town of Vamberk, Bohemia, where his father was schoolmaster, choirmaster and organist. As a child prodigy, he started to perform publicly in Bohemian towns at the age of nine. His father taught him music, encouraged his playing the piano and helped him get a scholarship to attend the University of Prague, where he studied philosophy. He also had lessons in piano and composition from Vaclav Tomasek. He found it impossible to obtain sufficient work as a musician in Prague, so in 1813 at the age of 22, Vorisek moved to Vienna to study law and, he hoped, to meet Beethoven. In Vienna he was able to greatly improve his piano technique under Johann Nepomuk Hummel, but once more failed to gain full-time employment as a musician.

Although Vorisek was enthralled by the classical style of Mozart, he was more intrigued by the incipient romanticism of Beethoven.

In 1814, as he was starting to compose, he did indeed meet Beethoven in Vienna. He also met other leading musicians there, including the composers Louis Spohr, Ignaz Moscheles, Hummel, and especially Franz Schubert with whom he became fast friends.

He completed his law studies in 1821 and was appointed barrister to the Court Military Privy Councillor, for whom he mainly drafted legal documents. But in 1822, he at last found musical employment as second court organist and ended his legal career. He was appointed first organist in 1824.

He soon won esteem as a composer of orchestral, vocal and piano music for orchestra. In 1818 he became conductor of the Friends of Music Society (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde) of Vienna.

Vorisek died, in Vienna, of respiratory arrest in 1825 at the age of 34. He was buried at the common cemetery in Wahring (today’s Wahringer Park).


Vorisek wrote only one symphony, his Symphony in D major, in 1821. Its style has been likened to Beethoven’s first two symphonies,[citation needed] but its melodically inventive early Romantic idiom was similar to Schubert’s.[citation needed]

In his capacity as imperial court organist, Vorisek composed a Mass in B-flat major. Together with his single symphony, some of his piano works and his Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 5, the Mass has been recorded.

The first recorded use of impromptu as a musical term occurred in 1817, in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, an idea of the publisher to describe a piano piece by Vorisek[citation needed] . His Impromptus Op. 7 were published in 1822, pieces known to his friend Schubert who subsequently used the description for several sets of music for piano, as did Frederic Chopin and numerous other composers.

In 1823-24, like Schubert, he was one of the 50 composers to contribute a variation on the same waltz by Anton Diabelli for the Vaterlandischer Kunstlerverein on which Beethoven composed his 33 variations (Op. 120).

Selected Discography

Cedille Records recording (CDR 90000 058) of Vorisek’s Symphony in D major and Mass in B-flat major with Paul Freeman and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra & Prague Chamber Choir, with program notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Cantus Classics 1993 recording (CACD 8.0019 D) of Vorisek’s Symphony in D major and Mass in B-flat major with Oldrich Vlchek (resp. Vaclav Neumann) and the Virtuosi di Praga & Prague Chamber Choir.

ArchivMusic.com first CD recording of Vorisek’s chamber music including his Violin Sonata (Praga 250204), played by the Kocian String Quartet with program notes by James Reel, FANFARE

Hyperion Records recording (CDA 66800) Vorisek’s Symphony in D, with Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Opus 111 recording OPS 30241 Fantasia Op. 12, Impromptus Nos 1-6 Op. 7, Sonata in B flat minor and Variations in B flat Op. 19. Olga Tverskaya (piano)

Regis Records recording RRC1224 Six Impromptus Op. 7, Sonata in B flat minor Op. 20, Variations in B flat Op. 19 and Fantasie Op. 12, also for piano.

Centaur Records recording (CRC 3022) of select pieces for solo piano performed by David Gross

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