Curriculum Vitae

Břetislav Novotný was born on January 10, 1924, in Vsetín, Czechoslovakia (the present day Czech Republic). He took up playing the violin at the age of nine. After completing secondary school education in 1943, he intended to study at the Prague Conservatory, but he did not receive permission to study from the German occupation authorities, and, instead, he was sent to forced labor in an armaments factory in Vsetín as a worker until the end of the war. It was not until after the liberation in 1945, when he started violin classes at the Prague Conservatory, under Professor Bedřich Voldan, and, only two years later, he received a diploma at the Geneva International Music Competition. One year prior to his graduation at the Conservatory, in 1949, he made an impressive debut in Prague (Smetana Hall), where he performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Dvořák’s Romance and Mazurek, and Ondříček’s Czech Rhapsody. The accompanying orchestra was the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) led by Dr. Václav Smetáček. From 1951 to 1955, B. Novotný was the first violin in Ladislav Černý’s Prague Quartet, and from 1954 to 1961, he was the leader (concertmaster) of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK).

In 1955, B. Novotný founded the Prague String Quartet, which, over time, became one of the world’s most successful chamber ensembles. With this quartet he traveled repeatedly the whole of Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Australia. Their two world concert tours, which took them literally around the globe in 1965 and 1967, were a memorable accomplishment. Their scheduled concert on the fifth continent – at a polar station in the Antarctica – had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

The Prague String Quartet recorded for the Supraphon label as well as a number of international labels and won numerous awards. The most eminent among them were the two Grammy Award Nominations in 1976 and 1977, and the High Fidelity International Record Critics Award – the Grand Prize in 1978 for their integral recording of A. Dvořák’s String Quartets for Deutsche Grammophon Polydor International, Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros in 1966 and 1978, Wiener Flötenuhr 1975 and 1982, The Golden Disc Prize, awarded by Nippon Columbia in 1976 and Diapason d’Or in 1977.

In addition to being the first violin of the Prague String Quartet, B. Novotný enjoyed a successful career as a soloist. Preeminent amongst his vast repertoire were Sonatas and Partitas by J. S. Bach. These he performed, in their entirety and in his own original interpretation, in two concerts in Prague (Rudolfinum Hall), in January 1969 and in the same year he recorded them in their entirety for Supraphon label.

Almost two decades, from 1972 to 1990, B. Novotný was the artistic advisor to the Prague Chamber Orchestra (PKO), and, from 1991 to 1993, he supported the Suk Chamber Orchestra (SKO) in the same role. From 1988 to 2007, he was the conductor of the South Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic (JKF Budweis).

B. Novotný has also been intensely involved in teaching. From 1970 to 1981, he taught at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Prague (AMU). He taught master classes in many countries, and lectured at the universities of México D. F., UNAM (Mexico), Yale and Stanford (USA), Banff (Canada), Gei-Dai and Musashino (Japan), and Canterbury (New Zealand). He was a jury member at many violin and string quartet international competitions, including the Montreal, Banff, and Prague Spring Festival competitions. He still teaches privately.

In December 2008, Břetislav Novotný was awarded the honorary Citizenship of his hometown, Vsetín.