Ján Levoslav Bella
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Bella was born in Liptovský Mikuláš, Austrian Empire (now Slovakia), and raised in a Roman Catholic family. He studied at the college in Levoča (Lőcse) and a seminary in Banská Bystrica (Besztercebánya) before taking a degree at Vienna University.
Bella was ordained a priest in 1866. From 1869 to 1881 he was town director of music at Kremnica (Körmöcbánya). He left the priesthood in 1881 and converted to Protestantism, becoming director of music in Hermannstadt/Nagyszeben, now Sibiu in modern Romania, (at that time Kingdom of Hungary) where he remained until 1921. From 1921 to 1928 he lived in retirement in Vienna, moving to Bratislava in 1928, where he died in 1936.
Bella began to compose whilst studying in Levoča. At this time his output was largely small-scale, such as church music, folk-song arrangements and some chamber music. In 1873 however, visiting Vienna and Prague, he heard for the first time the music of, amongst others, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner and Bedřich Smetana. This encounter with romantic music had a profound effect, of which the first result was Bella's 1874 symphonic poem Osud a ideál (Fate and the Ideal), which premiered in Prague in 1876.
Bella wrote in many different forms, including songs, church music, organ music, chamber music and orchestral music. His operas include Wieland der Schmied (Wieland the Blacksmith), to a libretto originally written by Richard Wagner and based on German legend. This was written in the period 1880–1890 and first performed in 1926 in Bratislava, where it was performed in a Slovak version as Kováč Wieland.
In recent times, Bella's music and reputation have been revived by, amongst others, the Slovak composer and scholar Vladimír Godár. Recordings of his complete chamber and organ works have been issued by Hudobné Centrum in Bratislava.
The Conservatoire of Ján Levoslav Bella in Banská Bystrica founded in 1992 was named after him.
- Elschek, Oskar (ed.)., A History of Slovak Music, Bratislava, 2003. ISBN 80-224-0724-0
- Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980 edition)
- Short biography and photo
- Brief biography
- Bella String Quartets Nos. 2 and 4 sound-bites and short biography
- The Conservatoire of Ján Levoslav Bella in Banská Bystrica homepage
- Free scores by Ján Levoslav Bella at the International Music Score Library Project