Czech composer and violinist Josef Suk was taught organ, violin, and piano by his father at an early age. Though he did not start composing until 1891, he was well-trained in music. He was trained further in violin by the Czech violinist Antonín Bennewitz and his theory studies were conducted with several others including composer Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Karel Knittl, and Karel Stecker.
One of Josef Suk's largest inspirations was one of his teachers, Antonín DvoÅ™ák. Known as one of DvoÅ™ák's favorite pupils, Suk became very close with the Czech composer and later married his daughter, Otilie. This marked some of Suk's happier times in his life and music. However, the last portion of Suk's life was stricken with tragedy. Over the span of 14 months around 1905, not only did his mentor, DvoÅ™ák, die, but so did Otilie. These events inspired Suk's Asrael Symphony. Suk retired in 1933, although he continued to be a very valuable and inspirational person to his Czech people.
Alongside Vitezslav Novak and Otakar Ostrčil, Suk was considered to be one of the leading composers in Czech Modernism, with much of this influence coming from DvoÅ™ák. Popular composers, such as Johannes Brahms and Eduard Hanslick, recognized Suk's work during his time with the Czech Quartet. Over time, other well-known Austrian composers, like Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg, also began to take notice of Suk. Although he wrote mostly instrumental music, Suk occasionally branched out into other genres. Chamber and orchestral music was his strong suit, notably the Serenade for Strings, Op. 6 (1892).
Suk said of himself: "I do not bow to anyone, except to my own conscience and to our noble Lady Music… and yet at the same time I know that thereby I serve my country, and praise the great people from the period of our wakening who taught us to love our country."