Miroslav Štefek

Miroslav Štefek Miroslav Štefek was born on 7 March 1916 in a small village called Líně near Plzeň, in west Bohemia. In 1936 he went to study horn playing at the Prague Conservatory. He was admitted to the class of Professor Emanuel Kaucky (1904 – 1953), the well-known soloist, teacher, and composer. Three years later Štefek got his first engagement at the Land’s Theatre in Brno, where at the time Rafael KubelIk was a conductor. In 1942 Kubelik left for Prague and shortly after his arrival at the Czech Philharmonic, he offered Štefek the opportunity to play in the horn section. He played in the CPO for twenty-seven years and his influence has been evident up to the present time.

Joseph Stuchlý, trumpet player in the Czech Philharmonic said “I had the opportunity to listen and hear the horn players—predecessors of Štefek—and they did not play badly. However, Štefek’s playing at the time he came to the CPO was something new and very remarkable. He played clearly, accurately, and above all with high musicality.

In 1947 he became a member of the Czech Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet, and from 1949 to 1957 he taught horn at the Prague Conservatory.

Oboe player Josef Shejbal, Štefek’s colleague from the CPO and the woodwind quintet, says:” Miroslav Štefek was a man of modest nature, quiet and inconspicuous, yet very contemplative and sensitive in his heart; an introvert. His instrumental mastery was in contradiction with his ability to express himself verbally. He did not feel at ease at various banquets and receptions held after the concerts… and did not attach any importance to publicity concerning his person as well. However, diligence and artistic and human honesty were absolutely essential things for him. There were no technical difficulties existing for him, and the culture of tunes and musical expression were always in harmony with the highest demands.

Rudolf Beránek, horn player in the CPO came to know Štefek in 1950. “It was unusal. When we were sitting beside him in the orchestra, we saw that he strained greatly while playing; he even struggled with the instrument. Before the concert he put three different mouthpieces in a small pouch and changed them during the concert. He had several horns, I think about five—Knopf, Kruspe, Lidl, Migma, and another—in his possession. He played certain compositions always on a certain instrument, but he was not satisfied with any of these instruments. When he played, his tone from the immediate vicinity sounded cramped. Yet, when you were sitting in the hall, you heard a very soft, plastic tone of great capacity. It was a real charm of a sound. I can never forget his solos in music by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Franck, Mahler, and Strauss.

Miloslava Štefková-Volfová, his daughter, recalled that In 1968 when Štefek recorded Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.1 he was already seriously ill with diabetes and was losing his strength When he came home after that recording, quite exhausted, with his lips totally injured and bleeding he said “When I was young Supraphon, did not want anything from me and now, when I cannot play any more, they wish me to record everything.” Miroslav Stefek succumbed to severe pneumonia on 13 April 1969 in Prague.

Zdeněk Divoký
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
From an article originally in
The Horn Call, February, 1995