Up Is Down: A Life of Violinist Jan Sedivka

Elinor Morrisby

Cover of Up Is Down: A Life of Violinist Jan Sedivka

Jan Sedivka, violinist and pedagogue, has been a towering figure in string playing in Australia for over forty-five years. This is Sedivka’s story: it encompasses the ups and downs of his extraordinary life.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1917, Sedivka’s precocious gift for the violin led him to study with renowned Czechoslovak masters, Otakar Ševcík and Jaroslav Kocian. Aged twenty-one, he accepted a scholarship to study in Paris but this was truncated by the outbreak of World War II. As a result of the invasion, he spent six months in a Paris prison in appalling conditions before escaping to England to become a leading performer and highly sought-after teacher.

In 1961, Sedivka accepted a position at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and migrated to Australia with his wife Beryl, violoncellist Sela Trau, and the Czech woman who had nursed him back to health in London. Victim of a “witch-hunt” and subject to police surveillance, Sedivka left Brisbane and since 1966 he has made his home in Tasmania where he established the finest string school Australia has ever known.

Loyal, contrary, enigmatic, philosophical and verbose, Sedivka is also a consummate artist whose life was, and continues to be, devoted to music, his wife, and his students.

About the author

Elinor Morrisby completed music studies at the Prague Conservatorium of Music and returned to Hobart in 1975. She is currently finishing a PhD on Sedivka’s importance to contemporary Australian string music. Her translation (with Ladislav Rosendorf) of Jana Renée Friesová’s autobiography Fortress of My Youth was first published in Australia in 1996, then by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2002.

ISBN 978 0 734037 70 1 | Paperback, xvii, 190 p. | RRP $55.00 AUD print (last few remaining); $20.00 AUD downloadable .pdf

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