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Sanja Majer-Bobetko ; Hrvatska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti

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Vjenceslav Novak (1859 – 1905) is generally known to the Croatian cultural public as a writer. It is less well-known that he was one of the few Croatian musicians with an excellent formal higher education in music. In 1886 he acquired the title of organist at the Prague Conservatory, and in 1887 he was a teacher of singing and music theory. Therefore, he was able to provide for himself and his family as a professor of various musical subjects in the Male Teacher-Training School and the school of the Croatian Music Institute in Zagreb. Along with this, from 1888 he published numerous articles in periodicals and monographs for 15 years. These works reveal the wide range of Novak’s professional interests: from musical criticism via theory, pedagogy, methodology, organology and the aesthetics of music, to musical historiography, which, along with the founder of Croatian musicology in general, Franjo Ksaver Kuhač (1834-1911), makes him a leading writer of music from the turn of the 19th into the 20th century. His first works belong to the field of musical pedagogy and music criticism. He was the author of the first textbooks about the harmony in the Croatian language (1889, 1890 and 1898), Upute u orguljanje (How to play the organ) (1893), intended for teaching organ playing and numerous other works, in which he talks about various themes, from the most general views of music schooling and questions in relation to music and education, where he also touches upon the musical-social problematics of the unsatisfactory social position of music and musicians, to training in singing, which includes the problem of children’s health, voice-breaking, music theory and methodology. Novak’s small number of musical reviews mainly reveal a critic who strives and often manages to explain his views in a reasoned and expert way. From 1889 Novak directed his attention to music historiography. The central place in this work belongs to his musical-literary opus of the first Croatian music-historiographical synthesis, the monograph [Povijest glazbe / History of Music], in which, in addition to the general history of music, he presents the history of the music of the South Slavic peoples, mainly Croatian history. However, it remained in a manuscript form right up until 1994. The writing of such a history for Croats meant that Novak faced numerous problems; from the criteria of the choice of appropriate material to the language itself, in other words, the terminology. He wisely and successfully made the choice of material from the then already standard historical manuals, and he successfully conveyed the basic knowledge of the then music historiography in a clear language, although sometimes with certain terminological difficulties, particularly when it came to Croatian musical terminology. Therefore, it is no surprise that he himself became involved in discussions about Croatian musical terminology, which led him into a dispute with Kuhač. Furthermore, since he also taught organ playing as a music teacher, he was probably encouraged by his own practice to dedicate two articles to the various issues related to the organ and the playing of it. Finally, from a considerable part of Novak’s works his interest in musical-aesthetic issues, which stand as a fundamental thread for many of them, can also be read. Novak’s aesthetic thought balances between romantic ideas that were promoted by the expressionists, insisting on the pursuit of the synthesis of all arts (the Liszt-Wagner school) and positivist ideas, advocated by the formalists, who hold "pure" musical beauty the only relevant content of a musical work (Eduard Hanslick). The work of Vjenceslav Novak as a music writer in the broadest sense bears pioneering characteristics in many disciplines. Finally, in the field of music periodicals, Novak also participated as the editor of music magazines on two occasions. Together with Vjekoslav Klaić, he edited Gusle (1892), and then Glazba himself (1893). Taking into account the overall musical-writing activity of Vjenceslav Novak, it can be rightly concluded that it reveals his large and respectable, as well as insufficiently emphasised musicological potential.

Ključne riječi

Vjenceslav Novak; music writer; music critic; music pedagogy; music historiography; history of Croatian music

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