Eduard Francevič Nápravník (Russian: Эдуа́рд Фра́нцевич Напра́вник; 24 August 1839 – 10 November 1916) was a Czech conductor and composer, who settled in Russia and is best known for his leading role in Russian musical life as the principal conductor of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for many decades. In that capacity, he conducted the premieres of many operas by Russian composers, including those by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Nápravník was born in Býšť, Bohemia, in 1839. His studies of music were precariously uneven as a child, being the son of a poor teacher. Being orphaned in 1853 at the age of 14, to earn a living Nápravník started his career by playing the organ in a local church. In 1854 he entered the Prague Organ School, where he studied under Jan Bedřich Kittl and others, and became an assistant teacher. The generosity of his teacher allowed him to continue studies. In 1861 he received an offer from Russia: the post of conductor of the private orchestra of Prince Yusupov in St. Petersburg.
Nápravník became organist and assistant conductor at the Imperial theatres in 1863, second conductor in 1867, and chief conductor, succeeding Liadov, in 1869, holding the post until his death. He gave the first performances of Boris Godunov in 1874, five operas by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, including The Maid of Orleans, Mazepa, and The Queen of Spades, and five by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, including May Night, The Snow Maiden, and Christmas Eve. He also conducted concerts of the Russian Musical Society. In 1914, after a productive career in the service of Russian opera, he was forced to discontinue further work due to ill health.
In November 1875 Nápravník conducted the first performance in Russia of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, with Gustav Kross as soloist (Kross's performance was described by the composer as "an atrocious cacophony"). Nápravník is also known for leading the second—and overwhelmingly persuasive—performance of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique symphony on 6/18 November 1893, twelve days after the composer's death. The premiere, under the composer's baton, had not fared so well, partly due to the audience's and the orchestra's unfamiliarity with a work that contained so many novelties, compositionally speaking, and partly due to Tchaikovsky's conducting. Under Nápravník's baton, however, and in light of Tchaikovsky's passing, the work was seen as a masterpiece with an overwhelming emotional message. It included some minor corrections that Tchaikovsky had made after the premiere, and was thus the first performance of the work in the exact form in which it is known today.
His wife: singer Olga Shryoder (ru: Ольга Эдуардовна Шрёдер).
- Nizhegorodtzy (The Nizhniy-Novgorodians, 1867, staged 1868)
- Harold (1884, staged 1885)
- Dubrovsky, libretto by Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1894, staged 1895)
- Francesca da Rimini (after Stephen Phillips's play based on the fragment from Dante's Divine Comedy, 1902)]
Orchestral and choral
- Ballads for voices and orchestra: The Voyevode, The Cossack, and Tamara (after Mikhail Lermontov)
- Four symphonies: (1860–1879; No. 3 The Demon (after Lermontov's poem of the same name)
- Suite for Orchestra
- Solemn Overture
- Marches and national dances for orchestra
- Fantasy and suite for violin and orchestra
- Concerto for piano and orchestra (Concerto Symphonique) in A minor, Op. 27 (1877)
- Fantasy on Russian themes (Fantasie Russe) for piano and orchestra in B minor, Op. 39 (1881)
- Three string quartets (1873–78)
- String quintet (1897)
- Two piano trios
- Piano quartet
- Violin and piano sonata
- Two suites for cello and piano
- String instrument and piano pieces
- Don Juan, incidental music for Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy's play (1892)
- Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 27 and Fantasie Russe in B minor, Op. 39. Yevgeny Soifertis, piano; BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Alexander Titov (Hyperion CDA67511).
- A school in the village of Býšť bears Nápravník's name today.
- His son Vladimir published a book about his father's life: Eduard Frantsovich Napravnik i ego sovremenniki, ISBN 5-7140-0412-4, 1991, in Russian.
- Dates follow the Julian calendar, which Russia used up to 31 January 1918.
- Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, p. 603
- Tchaikovsky Research