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Oskar Nedbal

Category: Musician

Learn more about Oskar Nedbal

Oskar Nedbal (March 26, 1874 – December 24, 1930) was a Czech violist, composer, and conductor of classical music. Born in Tabor in southern Bohemia, he moved to Prague as a child, where he studied violin and later viola at the Prague Conservatory under the supervision of Antonin Bennewitz. He also took composition lessons from Antonin Dvorak.

Nedbal was a founding member of the Bohemian String Quartet and the principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 1896 to 1906. He conducted the latter in England in 1902, during his first tour outside of Austria-Hungary. Although indebted to Dvorak, Nedbal paid homage in his work to other composers, such as Mozart, as well.

Nedbal’s works include the operettas Chaste Barbara (1910), Polish Blood (1913), The Vineyard Bride (1916), and Beautiful Saskia (1917), and numerous ballets, orchestral and chamber pieces, and the film score for Svaty Vaclav (Saint Wenceslas) (1929). Nedbal also conducted in Bratislava the 1926 premiere of Jan Levoslav Bella’s opera, Wieland der Schmied.

Haunted by mounting debts, Nedbal died by suicide in 1930: on Christmas Eve, he leapt from a window of the Zagreb Opera House. His reputation has grown posthumously. His Valse Triste, featured in his ballet Der Faule Hans (The Tale of Simple Johnny), has been a favorite stand-alone encore piece of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. At a pivotal moment in Heimito von Doderer’s 1956 novel Die Damonen (The Demons), set in inter-war Vienna, one of the characters plays this same waltz.