Vilem Tausky


Born: July 20, 1910
Following childhood and student days filled with associations with prominent Central European musicians, Vilém Tauský achieved success as a coach and conductor -- and on occasion -- as a composer. When the Nazis overwhelmed Czechoslovakia, Tauský made an escape to the West, settling in England where he became an important figure in the nation's musical life for more than a half century. For the breadth and quality of his achievements, Tauský has received numerous awards and citations. The son of a Czech doctor and a mother who had sung under the baton of Gustav Mahler, Tauský spent his earliest years avidly following the local brass bands that performed on Sundays. By age seven, he had sufficiently learned piano enough to accompany both his mother and Magda Santrucek, the daughter of Antonín Dvorák. He counted Rudolf Firkusný, later recognized as Czechoslovakia's premier pianist, among his friends. After beginning his studies in law at Brno University, he transferred to the Janácek Conservatory, gaining entrance there by submitting a cello sonata written when he was 15, and benefiting from instruction under Janácek himself. The composition written for his degree won a state prize and entrance into Prague's Meisterschule, where he studied with Josef Suk and Zdenek Chalabala. After joining the Brno Opera at age 18 (while still a student), Tauský was called upon the following year to take over a performance from Chalabala, leading Zinka Kuncová (later known as Zinka Milanov) and Jan Kiepura in Turandot. Soon thereafter, the young conductor led Chaliapin in Boris Godounov and Jarmila Novotná in La traviata. Other subsequent projects included extensive performances with the ballet, conducting the premiere of Dvorák's recently discovered Symphony No. 1, composing four operettas, working with composer Bohuslav Martinù, and leading the premiere of Tcherepnin's opera Vanka. Following the German occupation, Tauský undertook a hair-raising escape through Paris to England, arriving there aboard a Yugoslav coal hauler. Upon the formation of a Czech Army choir, Tauský directed concerts in all parts of England, often inviting such luminaries as Firkusný and Witold Malcuzynski as guests. In 1945, he was appointed music director at the Carl Rosa Opera, debuting there with Tosca and remaining with the company until 1949. After serving in three BBC appointments (the Manchester Variety Orchestra assignment had him working with such performers as Benny Hill and Gracie Fields), he became music director for the Welsh Opera Company (now the Welsh National Opera), at the same time serving with the National School of Opera. The year of his W.N.O. appointment, 1951, also brought his debut at the Royal Opera, where he led a Pique Dame featuring Edith Coates and later conducted performances of Il Trovatore, Tosca, and Salome. In July 1953, Tauský joined the Sadler's Wells Opera Company, leading a performance of Hansel and Gretel in English and later directing the premiere of Lennox Berkeley's Nelson. In 1954, he was invited by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears to organize the schedule for the English Opera Group that year and beyond. The following year, he conducted a complete cycle of Martinù's symphonies for the BBC, in the process of which he re-established contact with the composer. From 1956 to 1967, Tauský served as conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, leading that ensemble in a broad range of light music and premiering his march, Men of Tomorrow, with them. From 1966 to 1992, Tauský was head of the opera department at the Guildhall School of Music.