Czech Violinist Otakar Ševčík was Born in 1852
Also a renowned pedagogue of over 5,000 students, Ševčík’s most famed pupils included virtuosi Jan Kubelík, Efrem Zimbalist, and Erika Morini
Born in Bohemia, Otakar Ševčík had a musical upbringing — he learned to sing from the age of five and was taught the piano. He took his first violin lessons from his father Josef at age seven.
In his early teens, Ševčík began focusing more on his violin studies when he was accepted into the Prague Conservatory, where he studied under Antonín Sitt and Antonín Bennewitz.
Following his graduation, he took up a teaching post at the Mozarteum in Salzburg for three years, and served as concertmaster of Vienna’s Comic Opera. Soon becoming a highly acclaimed soloist, his popularity also saw him teach classes abroad in Boston, New York, and Chicago.
After a series of tours and additional conducting engagements, he began a violin professorship at Russia’s Kyiv Conservatory in 1875, where he remained for 17 years.
In the 1890s, Ševčík returned to the Prague Conservatory, where he taught for the next 14 years and became professor in 1901. His famed students included Jan Kubelik, Jaroslav Kocian, Efrem Zimbalist, Bohuslav Lhotský, František Ondricek, Sasha Culbertson, Marie Hall, and Otto Meyer.
Then director of the Prague Conservatory, Antonín Dvořák was a great proponent of Ševčík’s teaching methods, deeming them compulsory for the school’s violin students. In 1909, Ševčík was appointed as head of the Vienna Academy of Music and Fine Arts, where he worked until 1918.
Known for his practical approach to performance and technique development, Ševčík is the author of several study books for the violin that are still in use today. A key component of his widely publicized method allows violinists, plus all string players, to explore the dissociation of the left and right arms.
“Too many players when they try to play loud with the bow, press harder with the fingers of the left hand, and vice versa when they play softly with the bow, do not press enough with the fingers of the left hand,” Ševčík explained, according to Etude Magazine. “To conquer this, I give many different bowings for difficult passages, so that gradually the muscles governing the bow arm are made independent of the left hand.”
Including semitone systems for beginners, intonation exercises, fingerboard position exercises, and analytical studies for certain pieces, Ševčík’s studies are tailored to all levels of musicianship. His vast contribution to violin pedagogy includes over two dozen preparatory volumes, often divided into separate books for study.
Near the end of his life, he bequeathed all his work to the Ševčík College, a school he founded to support emerging artists. Ševčík died in 1934 at the age of 81.
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