ČERNICKÝ, KAREL (1907-1995)

Karel Václav Černický [Pron. CHAIR-nyitz-kee] (b. 19 September, 1907 at Sedlčaný – d. 12 December, 1995 at Prague) grew up in a very musical family which moved to Řičaný when he was three years old, his father being employed on the railroad. The youngest of three sons, Karel, along with his three sisters, learned to play violin and sing in the church choir. He taught himself to play the baroque oboe and percussion instruments. The Černický family played in the local orchestra. He attended secondary school in Prague, the Conservatory at the Emausi Klašter, from 1921-1927. Here he began proper oboe studies where his annual reports reveal a chapter in Czech music history: year 1-under Vitězslav Novák; year 2 Josef B. Foerster; year 3; Karel Hoffmeister; years 4 and 5 by Josef Suk and year 6 by Karel Hoffmann.
Karel went to Chomutov for army service as a 2nd Lietenant at the officer training school where he met his future wife, Drahomíra Bělohlávková, a nurse with whom he experienced sixty years of a real love story. Karel got the opportunity of playing oboe with the Belgrade Opera in Beograd under the young Oscar Danon but after three months, the fruits of his auditions with the orchestras of the National Theatre and Czech Radio in Prague beckoned him back to Prague. From 1933, Karel Černický played percussion in the National Theatre orchestra under Václav Talich and in 1935, Karel became principal timpanist until his retirement in 1973.
Černický was an all-around musician, a fine organist and choirmaster, filling much of his spare time when not in the National Theater, plazing or conducting in various Prague churches. From 1939-1947, he served as choirmaster at SS. Fabian and Sebastian church in Liboc, then moved to the Dominican church of Svatý Jijí in the centre of Prague from 1947-1952. In 1952, he moved to the church and monastery of Sv. Markéta at Břevnov in Prague 6 which became the family church and where both he and his wife are buried. It is here that he built his close relationship with musicians Václav Smetáček, Jan Hanuš and Jarmil Burghauser, all of whom had homes in this district and attended that church. In 1994, Svatý Markéta celebrated its 1000th year since its foundation. Among the celebrations was a special performance of Masses and church music by its four composer sons, Burghauser, Černický, Hanuš and Vyskočil. Karel Černický was a much loved and respected figure
in Czech musical life. His quiet, unassuming manner masked a great sense of fun for those who knew him well and endeared him to all who came into contact with him professionally and socially. As a student he had studied harmony and counterpoint with Otakar Šín and form with Jaroslav Křička, and composition with Adolf Cmíral. His own compositions were relatively few but all beautifully written. Much of his output was church music, with his Missa in honorem Sancti Wenceslai, a Czech Mass written in wartime, and the Missa in honorem beatae Zdislavae from 1950 continuing to be performed today in Prague churches. He wrote delightful dance pieces for xylophone and percussion as well as charming piano works, as well as vocal and choral pieces for church services with organ. His talents also included drawing and painting with watercolors. He loved taking his family on hiking expeditions in the Tatra and Fatra mountains of Slovakia in summers at the close of the opera season.
Karel Černický is remembered among musicologists for his work on the Smetana operas. Playing timpani at the National Theatre, he discovered some of the timpani parts did not lie correctly and so returned to study Smetana’s original manuscripts. He discovered that the copyist had not understood Smetana’s timpani notation. As a result, he wrote two valuable papers on the subject which were published in Czech music periodicals. He visited the Edinburgh Festival with the National Theatre in 1964 and 1970 and shared his information with James Blades who at the time was writing his definitive book, Percussion Instruments and Their History.
Karel Černický lived a full, rich and varied life centered around his family and his music, ever ready to help others through research and copying material from manuscript sources to facilitate performances of otherwise unavailable works. His family tradition continues after him with his daughter, a former librarian at Charles University and choral singer, while his grand children and great grand children all are involved in active musical lives as singers and instrumentalists. Experiencing this gave Karel immense pleasure in his later years. His daughter has catalogued all his manuscripts and is working with her grandson to engrave them.
Her son, Jiří Kub, a physicist-musician, shared his grandfather’s role of church music director in Prague churches for many years in the 1990s. While on a musical sabbatical in 1991, he met Joel Blahník and Anita Smisek from the USA who participated in singing with the church choir at Svatý Jiljí under his direction. While on a 2013 visit to Prague, Anita contacted Jiří who then introduced her to his grandfather’s music. Thus began the publication relationship which is continued through his mother. Alliance Publications, Inc. is proud to offer the music of Karel Černický, a most dedicated musician, to musicians throughout the world.