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Some Czech Composers Today Author(s): Brian Large Source: Tempo, New Series, No. 80 (Spring, 1967), pp.

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by Brian Large

of a peoples' democracyin Czechoslovakia The liberationand establishment to musical life throughout a the republic. Not only tremendous impetus gave were the ravagesof war being made good but new conditionsand opportunities of activity were beingcreatedforthegrowthof music. Composersin an outburst were producingworks which not only reflectedthe bitter experiences of the like VitiezslavNovak war, but the optimism of a new life. Traditionalists who was born in 1870, and JosefFoerster, then in his eighty-sixth year,were own of their and those Alois Janicek. pupils composingalongside Hiba, who had with quarterfounded schools of microtonal music, was still experimenting tones and at the same time producingcantatasbased upon the diatonic system. a pupil of Suk and a romanticat heart, togetherwith Jaroslav Pavel Borkovec, were Ridky producing works in establishedstyles and idioms and passing on theirworkingmethodsto theirmanypupils. Others like Emil Hlobil and Emil Burian continuedto compose in the traditions of Czech romanticmusic almost untouched by modem trends. New names were springingup everywhere. Composers who had maturedduringthe occupation years had by I946 grown into artiststo be reckoned with and alongside them were musicianswho were about to mature. thatamong thiswealth of musiciansand musical activity It is not surprising social changescertainly made an existed. The revolutionary a state of confusion not on their lives of musicians but musical on the thought. Many proimpact gressiveand socially conscious artiststried to express aspects of the new life in theirmusical languagefor the sake of theirscores but failedby over simplifying a of and early however, group men, thenin theirthirties popularity. Gradually, forties,emerged who took the initiativein creatingnew formsof expression. Among them V~clav Dobii', JanHanus, JanKapr and JanSeidel were all signifiwas Miloslav Kabelac. cant, but the most prominent Born in 1908 Kabelac belongs to that generationwhich lived throughthe artisticchaos of the I93os. He firstcame to the public eye in I939 with a cantataDo notretreat-a reactionto the eventsleadingup to the second patriotric war and a cry for resistance. During hostilitieshe composed two symphonies, but otherwiseremainedsilent. Afterthe war, he produced a number of small vocal and instrumental pieces in which he turned for inspirationto Moravian for they folk poetry. Such pieces as the Op. I4 set for piano are important, marks of include certain stylisticelements which have become characteristic Kabelac's musical idiom. He writessimplybut austerely;his melodies are lucid are vital and pithy; his harmonies,despite a preyet impressive; his rhythms of diatonic. All these featuresare to be found in basically pedals, ponderance the Sonatinaforoboe and piano, in the Piano Preludes Op. 30, and in the organ Fantasyof I957 as in the larger orchestral works - the Hamlet Op. 49 (1964). It is in Improvisations Op. 46 (I962) and Zrcadleni (Reflections) TheMystery of Timeand in the six symphoniesthatKabelic's musical expression Kabelic has found its highestpeak. In TheMystery of Timewrittenin I97, note chooses to build his entire work on a simple germ cell-an alternating ? 1967 by BrianLarge

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pattern which is developed in a most individualway into a large, structurally gradedpassacaglia. The followingexample shows the initialcell and some of the later transformations.
Ex. i




...etc. etc.




Bsn. 6-a----


Sns. Feroce










structure The is a symphonic work ofTime Despite itssingle-movement Mystery marks the same of as are be to found in the style bearing symphonies. The first of these,writtenin 1942, is a concertantework for the unusual combinationof writtenjust afterthe war, stringsand percussion. In the Second Symphony, KabelAcwrites for a large orchestraand comes closest to the traditionalsymhe returns to the concertante natureof the phonic form. In the Third Symphony and scores the four for movements brass bandand timpani. The next first, organ, two examples,fromthe thirdmovement, shows the organ fugue subject upon which the movementis built, and a combinationof organ with brass(Kabelac's characteristic pedal points are also shown in the brass parts).
Ex. 2


------- et-.

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Ex. 3 Allegro feroce



> .


1 F 1 i UP i t 1+ .OrgrT L,



Organ 4?


" iii A r
.' A+. ,.+ , 4



bt? ". I
do . to 4p

.-- ,

and In the FourthSymphony (1958) Kabelac turnedto a chamberorchestra of the The to a more accepted four-movement 4) (Ex. symphony plan. opening of the composer's austere style, his simple thematic material shows something of a fourth. forpedal points-this time built on the interval and his fondness In the remainingtwo symphoniesthe composer returned to the concertante six yearsago, introduces written elementsof Nos. i and 3. The Fifth Symphony, a solo soprano, and the Sixth, written in 1962, calls fora solo clarinet. In to be the possessorof a markedgiftfor all of these works Kabelac shows himself skilledin building tension. and a master of invention, up dramatic scoring rhythmic He is one of the most originalcomposersin Czechoslovakiatoday. is the Slovak Born in the same year as Kabelac, and equally significant, and in his outcareer his 1928, although composer Eugen Sucholi. Suchoi' began music it does include several to chamber was devoted mainly put beforethe war other works which in a way formthe pillars of Slovak music. Suchoi's songOp. 8, extollingthe beauty of Slovakiancountryside, cycle FromtheMountains the 'Ballad Suite' Op. 9-and the 'Carpathian Psalm'-a courageous protest works againstthe povertyand exploitationof Slovak people-are all important

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Ex. 4 Grave

Fl. & ClI

_ ,,_ __._ _',_


in thattheypoint the strongnationalSlovak r..relementswhich anticipateSuchoAi's The Krutnava. composer worked upon this score for masterpiece-the opera also reworkedit in I952). The opera is in it nine years,completing I949. (He in the drama set a sociological-psychological period 192o-2 5, and takes as its who at that time were forcedto work like women theme the fateof the Slovak In this dramaticsubject serfswithoutrightsor recognition. creating powerfully he followed this Slovak national opera. In 1952 Suchoii also created the first which describes the break called with a historical opera Svatopluk up of the of the downfall Moravian Empire and the tragic king Svatopluk. Recently and orchestraAd Astra,and of for a has soprano cycle songs completed SuchoAi In his these musicallanguagehas chanmixed voices. TheMan (I962), a cycle for in or the in the orchestralMetamorphoses. found operas ged littlefromthatto be dramatic include movements of reflective His compositions are intensely yet his bases work on modal systematically lyricism. In musical thought,Suchoii folk idioms. (The wedding ceremony in scales and particularlyon Slovak of folkmelody is a fineexample Suchon's use of traditional Scene 3 of Krutnava and rhythm.) and regionas Suchofiis JanCikker (b. 191 I). Belongingto the same generation nationalcomposer whose scores seem to be is an Like Sucho6i,Cikker ardently folk idiom. AlthoughCikker began comof Slovakian steeped in the veryspirit the Slovak Suite, did not appear of work his first anysignificance, posingin I933 music a basic literary his contentwhich In this Cikker ten until yearslater. gives and The Summer in his found is to be Memories, poems Morning symphonic again Cikker turned to After these and the Soldier AMother. symphonicpoems opera. To date he has writtenfour major stage works which have placed him among the leading opera composers of Slovakia. The first of these, Juro Jdnosik is based on popular brigand legends and is modelled on Suchoi's Krutnava (195-53) (the authorof the librettowas also Suchoi's collaboratoron Krutnava, Stefan Hoza). In his score Cikkermakesgreatuse ofSlovakia'snationalfolkdances, the wild 'Odzemek' which has helped to make the work popular. particularly

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Turkish invasion of Hungary and Slovakia, AIr. Scrooge(1959) adapted from Dickafter Tolstoy. ens's ChristmasCarol, and Resurrection,

Cikker's three later operas are Beg Bajazid, an historicalsubject based on the

Another composer who has achieved success in the field of opera is 1a performedwork is Revoltin Ephesus-a two act Krejci. His most frequently comic opera based on Shakespeare's Comedy Krejci belongs to the same ofErrors. school as Kabelac and Dobiba, and like theirshis mature music dates fromthe end of the war. Krejci's outputis modestcomparedwith thatof the other composers but despite thishe holds a special place in Czech music. At the time that of Krejci began to write music (about I928) Europe was under the influence to the introduction and Krejci was one of thosewho led the way neo-classicism, of neo-classical styles to Czechoslovakia. He has often been described as a "little Czech Mozart", and his music sparkleswith gaietyand happiness. His which witha terseness scores are oftenhumorousand he is able to expresshimself an have is not always to be found in other Czech composers. His melodies a similar and in he this with Bohemian and Moravian folksong speaks affinity is most at home in the Martinu. his of that to Krejci compatriot language and variation. His and cassation,the rondo miniatureforms-the divertimrnento dance with Serenade(1961) is a typical rhythms lively exampleof his work,

a twentieth-century whichsuggest Dvo~'k. Otherworksincludethreestring known be farbetter should secondofwhich andthree symphonies-the quartets in I960, is distinguished in thiscountry. spontaneity by its tuneful Completed and and simplebut effective examplesfromthe first scoring. The following whichKrejciworks. showthebasicsubject lastmovements matter wvith
Ex. g Allegro molto


Fl. + Cl.



p Ex. 6

>> - ,!--


Allegro maestoso

. etc.

Vivace w.w.


to thoseof Krejciis Jan similar who possesses Another qualities composer to composing turned he has now is Barto BartoI. only 60 Though Zdeni~k
seriouslyin the last eighteeny)ears. His catalogue containsover eightyworks, a greatdeal of lightmusic, mostof whichwas writtenbefore I95o. not including quartets,three wind quintetsand a piano quintet. There are also two ballets,

.. .



' 'i


In his seriousoutputchamber music occupies first place, with eightstring

threeoperas,threesymphonic poems, and threesymphonies.Whereasthe a grave tendedtowards FirstSymphony with its autobiographical programme and is It different. is Second the andat times mood, entirely gay,witty gloomy

intraditional anddesigned inharmony, wonderfully lyrical, phony',it is diatonic

the wide varietyof its author's style. Subtitled 'Chamber Symdemonstrates

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we come to two pupils of Czech composers theolder generation Movingfrom establish to much have done of Pavel BoFikovec who contemporarymusic-Jiri Pauer and Vladimir Sommer. Pauer (b. I919) has also studied with Alois Haiba and at the beginningof his career was largely concerned with experiSnail (1949with the satiricalone-act opera TheGarrulous mentation. Beginning his Pauer the I9gos, simplified styleconsiderablygo) and continuing through in thehistorical became surprisingly his harmoniclanguage romlantic-particularly to the he has returned Since then, however, (1957). opera Zuzana V/ojirovac of his features of his Characteristic and complex style youth. writing astringent which tend to give his music a are clear-cutmelodies and vital, motoricrhythms sharp,almost acid gaiety. AlthoughPauer has composed concertos for horn, for large orchestra,he and a symphony bassoon and oboe, as well as a rhapsody his music and music for the theatre. with chamber most success has achieved has Red Hood Little been enormchildren's His enchanting (1959) Riding opera as have the three satirical the operas Concountry, ously popular throughout Here Pauer's sense of boisterous (i 96). melody, unfailing jugal Counterpoints musical wit, even parody,are seen to best advantage. and original youngerpersonalitiesin Czech Among the most outstanding music todayis Sommer (b. I92 I). Sommer is not a prolificcomposer; speed is but depthand seriousness are. He graduatedfrom not one of his characteristics, the Academyof Musical Arts, Prague in 1950 with a Violin Concerto which has done much to establishhis place in contemporary music. It is a remarkable piece which includes a numberof Sommer's maturemarksof style. He is one of the one of the most romantic. He most lyricalof Czech composers-and certainly and Exx. 7 and 8, takenfromthe has been influenced by Honeggerand Prokofiev second and last movementsof the Concerto, show this clearly.
Ex. 7

Solo N



Solo tt


a .d


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Ex. 8


Allegro V








Orch. 0) pp > r

Sommer's tragicStringQuartet No.2 (I955) is also typicalof his output. The and sorrow, the slow movementa plaintive first movementis fullof melancholy but lyricalsong, of unusualemotionalstrength.Only the finale providescontrast and stormy and relief,with a forceful rondo. Sommer's othermajor works-the Piano Sonata (19955),the Cello Concerto and the Sinfonia Concertante for two violins and orchestra(both 1963), together with the overtureAntigone, similarly bear the marksof Sommer's seriousnessof thought. The Antigone overtureis a finework which not only displaysthe composer's skill in orchestraparticularly tion but his abilityto work in 'cellular' techniques. This exampleshowssome of froman initial four-note Sommer's tranformations germ upon which the work is built.
Ex. 9



Allegro WE Fmetc.frjj,





molto Allegro Strgs.



to children'ssongcycles (It is good RecentlySommerhas turnedhis attention and two yearsago he completeda passacaglia to be on earthand Myjava Csdrdds) for baritoneand orchestracalled TheBlackAan. His most important compositionis the Vocal Symphony(I959) scored for contralto soloist, full chorus, speaker and orchestra. The firstmovementis a meditativepassacaglia-likesettingof

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over the sleepingworld. The second movea Kafkatext depictinga nightwatch ment, an urgent scherzo, is based on Raskolnikov's dream from Dostoevsky's a profoundlamentabout life,is based The finalmovement, Crime and Punishment. on the poem 'Death will come and close youreyes' by Pavese. It is a work which and has done much to establish him standsamongstSommer's finest compositions and deep thinking in Czech music as one of the significant personalities today. of contempAnothercomposer who is among the foremostrepresentatives orary music is Viktor Kalabis (b. 1923). Like Sommer's, Kalabis's output is still modest. He is not a greatexperimenter, nor does he attemptto fixliterary or poetical programmesto his music as others have done. Kalabis's early style almost Brahmsian leans heavilyon a traditional, idiom, but the Suite for orchestra (Strdznice)Op. 9, the Cello Concerto (i95i) and the Piano Concerto show him breakingnew ground. The Piano Concerto is a delightful (I954) work, immediately lyrical,simple in formand texture. This example fromthe first movement styleof writing. givessome idea of Kalabis's refined
Ex. Io Allegro p-

- .

,.. ?


Kalabisfollowedthisconcertowithhis FirstSymphony and.then,in I9 9 anotherconcerto,thistimefortheviolin. In 1961 theSymphonyNo. 2 appeared. This is a workfarremovedfrom theromantic tonesof Kalabis's earlymusic. The Symaustereand deeply phonyis subtitled'SinfoniaPacis' and the music is meditative, felt. In 1962 Kalabis completed the Second StringQuartet, in which he begins to be more adventurous-in this much of the music stems from a common theme, the harmonyis more aggressive,the instrumentalparts more polyphonic. Between 1962 and 1963 Kalabis worked on his Chamber Music for stringsOp.2 I, which is close in style to the preceding Quartet. Each of the three movements is monothematicand Kalabis departs from the traditional treatment of this theme with its structuralimplicationsby buildinga seriesof sections which owe a debt to the concerto grosso. tempestuous fantasia-like One of the most interesting features of thiswork is the composer's introduction of a I,2-noterow in the second movement. This is a departurefromKalabis's to see if he has continued previousstyleof compositionand it will be interesting to adopt this technique in his largestorchestralwork to date, the Concerto for Orchestra completed a few monthsago. Two other composers who have from time to time made use of I2-note Feld. Feld is now 41 and much of his techniquesare Jan Novak and Jindrich recent music has been influenced or by, originatedfrom,the modern Viennese school. In his earlyworkshe took as his model the compositionsof Bart6k,but in later yearshe has preferredto accept serial methodsof composition. lie is a

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writer whopossesses an unusually keen senseof form and architectural prolific His is instrumentation and effective his chamber music and proportion. always orchestral the mainpartof his workare scores,whichso farhaveconstituted marked andclarity ofexpression. His Suiteforchamber orchestra byliveliness a is fine of his was an craft. as abstract balletin (1961) (It example produced Hanover in 1963.) One ofhismostimpressive is theseriesof 'Frescoes' works for orchestra arethe'Concert Music'for (1963-4). His latest large compositions bassoon and orchestra and the oboe, No.4. Quartet String (x964)was born ofBrno, in 1921 andstudied withMartinu in Novak,a native Jan to thatof his America. Until 1958 Novakcomposedin a stylenot dissimilar teacher. His musicis noble, polished, harmonious and witty bothin melody andrhythm. The Concerto fortwopianos, theballetThe andthe Bride Spectre's 'Philharmonic Dances' are all clearly and well expressed defined compositions whichdrawfreely on Moravian folkidioms. Theyshowthecomposer's senseof humour and his dislike ofpathos. Duringthelasteightyears or so Novikhas turned to dodecaphonic ofcomposition. methods He hasusedserial occasionally in his film and for the and in recentyears music scores techniques stage has rows to use in Latin 2-note Since texts. he 19s9 he has attempted setting the Carmina Dulces Cantilenae-in Horati; produced following song cycles: odaria and Suaviloquia. loci Vernales Campani; Alagistri loveof Latin culture is shared, to someextent, interestNovAk's byanother the Petr Eben is a he ingfigure, 37-year-old Eben. Although prolific composer is essentially a traditionalist. He tendsto look backto Gregorian for plainsong melodic Hisorgan Dominicalis ( 19 8), theLaudates (1964) inspiration. cycleMusica fororgan and thecyclic Symphony andorchestra are all examples ofthis. Eben is a particularly and thepiece whichdemonstrates fine hisindividuality of pianist best is Piano musical the Concerto in and expression completed 1961 performed in thiscountry at lastyear'sCheltenham It is a workwhich owesa debt Festival. to Shostakovich as thefollowing from the final movement show. examples
Ex. I i Solo Maestoso Piano




Allegro Solo b Piano



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or orchestApartfromthe concerto Eben has produced no major symphony on vocal and choral Like thatof his he concentrated music. Instead has ral work. has out much of Eben's music of his grown feeling contemporary, Ilja Hurnik, forthe world of children. The 'Small Duets', 'SpringDitties', 'Merry-go-round' their and 'Christmas Songs' are all remarkable for their melodic invention, also music is His other choral of sound and extreme simplicity. originality His of the human Love's voice. for his notable Ovid, Epitaph after Strophes handling his mastery in this fieldand (1964) demonstrate (1963) and Ubi Caritaset Amor youngertalentsin Czechoslovakiatoday. place Eben amongstthe most promising of course this In the general surveyit has been possible to mentiononly a have made significant contributions to Czech music since who men few of the more works in are various and forms, There the war. styles verymany producing in their are some of and the youngercomposers, now thirties, experimenting with advanced serial techniques. Miloslav I'tvan, JozefMalovec, Pavel Simai, in this field Alois Piiios and MiroslavBazlik have all achieved some recognition has been JanKlusak, whose multi-serial -but by farthe most successful 'Invenhave been between in and tions' (written Paris, 1961-6 g) performed Darmstadt to findnew and valid where theywon an award. Other composers are trying with means of expressionlike the resourceful Vaclav Kaslik whose experiments in that medium. electronic music have led him to produce the opera Krakatit Pavel Blatn' is doing useful work in the field of 'third stream' music and has made a synthesisof modern serial techniques with specialised jazz elements. His 'Rhythmsand Nuances' (1964) and 'Study for quarter-tone trumpetsand themove jazz band' (i 965) are theworkofa serious-minded composer. Although to dodecaphonicand electronicstyleshas taken longer to take root in Czechoslovakia thanit has in certainother partsof Europe therecan be little doubt that Czech composers are aware of currentmusical thoughtand are contemporary to twentieth make theircontribution anxious to music. century


of Alois Haba, who is now in his earlyseventies, The first completebiography is beingpreparedby Dr. J. Vyslouzil,lecturerin musicology at the University of Brno, and I owe thanksto him for valuable co-operationin selectingand analysing examplesof Haiba'swork. Few other composershave followedas clear cut a patternof a life's work as Haba, who in the years I92 -23 made a significant in several directions in his firstmature works. This gave him breakthrough and teacher enoughmaterialfordevelopmentas a composer, theoreticalthinker to lasta lifetime. Of theseworksI have selected three,all writtenin the quarterand hope to show in whatway Haba was ahead of his contemporaries tone system, at thattime. In the FantasyOp. 9a, for solo violin, of which I quote the opening bars, (Ex.i) Haiba uses the entire row of 24 quartertones(C to C) melodically. The threenotes of each of the threebars show the dramaticuse he makes of the first
1967 by George Whitman

by GeorgeWhitman

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