The Kennedy Center

Jan Vaclav Vorísek



Jan Vorisek was a Bohemian pianist, organist and composer of works in the late Classical style associated with Vienna.  His compositions are known for their evocation of the music of the recent past, especially Mozart, Haydn and early Beethoven. Although his style appealed to the public during his life, it fell out of fashion with the advent of the Romantic style in the 1830s.

Vorisek was born on May 11, 1791 in Vamberk. His father, choirmaster and organist at the local church, began Vorisek's piano and singing lessons at the age of three. By the age of seven he was the organist for a neighboring church; soon he was touring on foot throughout Bohemia as a pianist. Countess Rozina Kolowrat-Libstejnsky became his patron, moving him to Prague in 1802 to complete his education. He served as the school organist and composed music to Latin texts.  During this time he developed a local reputation as a pianist.  He was also active as a composer, producing a set of 12 German dances, a song and a piano march.  Vorisek's musical personality was defined during his university years by three things: his studies with Václav Tomášek, his involvement with the music of J.S. Bach and the music of Beethoven. 

In 1813, Vorisek moved to Vienna to have more opportunities for musical development. He was active as a composer, pianist and violinist, and developed a reputation as one of the finest keyboard players there.  From 1818 he was conductor of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.  The period 1818 to 1823 was Vorisek's most active time as a composer He completed the 12 Rhapsodies, op.1 (1818) and six Impromptus op.7 for the piano (1820), the Violin Sonata op.5 (1819), the Symphony in D (1823) and fashionable virtuoso works for piano and orchestra. After his appointment to the court chapel in 1823, he began to compose sacred choral works, including a Mass.

Never physically strong, Vorisek began to suffer seriously from tuberculosis about 1820.  By 1824 his illness worsened, forcing him to relinquish his duties as court organist in January 1825.  He died in Vienna on November 19, 1825. 

Sources: Oxford Companion to Music, Grove Music Online

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Jan Vaclav Vorisek