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Miloslav KABELÁČ

(*1.8.1908, Prague - ✝17.9.1979, Prague)

Czech composer

In 1926 he entered Prague Technical University but did not finish his studies there. He took private piano lessons from Mikeš and from 1928 studied at the Prague Conservatory - composition with K.B.Jirák, conducting with Dědeček, counterpoint and new composition techniques with Hába and instrumentation with Schulhoff. In 1931-34 he attended V. Kurz's piano masterclass at the Conservatory.

From 1932 to 1941 Kabeláč worked as a recording director for Prague radio. He became recognized conductor, particularly of the 20th-century music. During the WWII he had to leave the position in radio because of his wife's Jewish origin. He returned there after the war and stayed until 1957. In 1958-62 he taught composition at the Prague Conservatory - his pupils included Ivana Loudová, Jaroslav Krček, Zdeněk Lukáš, Lukáš Matoušek, or Jan Málek.

As a protest against Czechoslovakia's occupation by Nazi Germany he composed the cantata Neustupujte (Do not Retreat!, 1939) which was his first outstanding work. He used the texts of several folk songs from K. J. Erben's collection from the time of the Prussian invasions of Bohemia in the mid-18th century, and the famous 15th-century Hussite chorale Ktož sú boží bojovníci (Ye Who Are God's Warriors). The cantata is dedicated "To the Czech people" and it is one of the most personal and most effective of Kabeláč's compositions.

He was very interested in Gregorian chant and non-European musical culture - e.g. in the Cizokrajné motivy for piano (Motifs from Foreign Countries, 1958-59). Many of his works are inspired by folk music - but as with other sources of inspiration he used his own way of interpretation. Among these works are the Milostné písně (Love Songs, 1955), and the Šest ukolébavek (Six Lullabies, 1956).

Kabeláč used many elements of the New Music, from twelve-tone composition and emphasis on timbre to aleatoric, specific, and electronic music. He was in active contact with contemporary music (ISCM festivals, Warsaw Autumn etc.). He was also very active head of the Committee for electronic music which was found in Czechoslovakia in 1961.

All his life he had a special liking for percussion instruments. After the cantata "Do Not Retreat!" and the Symphony No. 1 in D for strings and percussions (1941-42), he composed his famous Eight Inventions for Percussion Instruments (six players) for the ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg. "Inventions" in the title refers to Bach's formal investigation and polyphonic keyboard writing. This work received its first performance by Les Percussions de Strasbourg on 22 April 1965 as the music for Manuel Parres's ballet, Le Minotaure, and then it has been very successful internationally, performed very often by many percussion-instrument groups as well as ballet ensembles (e.g. New York ballet group of Alvin Ailey). Les Percussions de Strasbourg inspired also the Osm ricercarů pro bicí nástroje (Eight ricercari for Percussion Instruments, 1966-67).

Notable is also the Symphony No. 8 "Antiphonies" for soprano, mixed choir, percussion instruments and organ (1970). This symphony is written in five movements and four interludes on the words from the Bible and is dedicated to Strasbourg town. The title "Antiphonies" came from the special position of four performers. This work was together with 8 Inventions and two notable Kabeláč's organ compositions Dvě fantazie (Fantasia for organ G minor and D minor, 1957-58) and Čtyři preludia (Four preludes, 1963) heard at a concert entitled "A tribute to Miloslav Kabeláč" in St. Paul church in Strasbourg on 15.6.1971. This concert was organised by two Kabeláč's friends - Pierre Stoll, conductor of the Strasbourg Municipal Orchestra, and Pierre Nardin, a professor at the Conservatory and organist of St. Paul. The composer wasn't allowed to attend this concert by the Czechoslovakian regime.

After war Kabeláč concentrated mainly on large symphonic works. From his symphonies (each of his 8 s. is written for a different combination of instruments): No. 3 for organ, brasses and timpani (1948-57), No. 4, "Chamber Symphony" (1954-58), No. 5, "Dramatic", for soprano without text, and orchestra (1960), No. 6 "Concertante", for clarinet and orchestra (1961-62), Symphony No. 7 for orchestra and reciter on the composer's text after the Bible (1967-68), written for Baden Baden orchestra. Other important orchestral works are the symphonic passacaglia Eufemias Mysterion (The Mystery of Silence, 1965) for soprano and chamber orchestra, to composer's own words in Classical Greek, Hamletovská improvizace (Hamlet Improvisation, 1962-63), reflecting the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, and Zrcadlení (Reflections, 1963-64), nine miniatures using various composition techniques.

His last, monumental works are inspired by Czech history. The six-movement electronic composition E fontibus Bohemicis - Six tableaux from Czech annals (1965-72), with the sound of the bell Zikmund (the biggest bell of Prague), and the Proměny I, II (Metamorphoses), the first version for female speaker, barytone, male chorus and mixed chorus finished in 1978, and the second version for piano and orchestra finished in 1979. The Metamorphoses are both based on the oldest Czech chorale Hospodine, pomiluj ny (Lord, have mercy on us).

Kabeláč composed also many chamber works - Passacaglia TGM (1937) or 8 preludes for piano (1955-56), Sonatina for oboe and piano (1955), Ballad for violin and piano (1956) or Suite for saxophone and piano (1959), choruses - 6 male choruses, 1939-40) on words by Jiří Wolker, Modré nebe (Blue Sky, 1950), children's chorus on the poetry by František Hrubín, or Přírodě (To Nature, 1957-58), children's chorus on the words of folk poetry, and also some incidental music.

Composer and conductor Jaroslav Krček, a pupil of Kabeláč, wrote this about his teacher's music: "It is music arriving from a space pervaded by goodness and love. Such music is much needed. It inspires a search for truth because it is truthful itself. It is enchanting, because it is pure. It stimulates the taking of stands, because it takes a stand itself. This is exactly what its composer was like."

Links: www.musica.cz

P. Nardin and M. David: Miloslav Kabeláč ou le salaire de l'honneur


Love Song [Milostna]
Prague Radio Choir, Milan Maly
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Josef Hrncir

CD Radioservis

Love Songs [Milostne pisne], Op. 25
Kristyna Valouskova - soprano, Edita Adlerova - alto, Petr Matuzsek - baritone, Petr Jirikovsky - piano
Petr Bernasek - violin, Barbora Vachalova - harp, Kamil Dolezal - clarinet, artistic leader, Jiri Richter - viola, Jiri Hudec - double bass, Hanus Barton - piano, Miroslav Kejmar - percussion

CD Oliverius

Mystery of Time - Passacaglia for Large Orchestra, Op. 31 (1953-1957)
Hamlet Improvisation for Large Orchestra, Op. 46 (1962-1963)

Jiri Reinberger - organ, Bedrich Dobrodinsky - harp, Robert Mach - timpani
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Karel Ancerl
Golden Harmony Award 2002

CD Supraphon

Seven Compositions for Piano, Op. 14 (1946)
Passacaglia T. G. M., Op. 3 (1937)
Motifs from Exotic Lands, Op. 38 (1959)
Eight Preludes,Op. 30 (1956)

Daniel Wiesner - piano
CD Panton

Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 9
Daniel Veis - cello, Helena Veisova - piano
CD Panton

Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 36 "Camerata"
Euphemias Mysterion for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 50
Do not Retreat! Cantata for Male Chorus, Wind and Percussion Instruments, Op. 7
6 Cradle-songs for Contralto, Female Chorus and Instrumental Ensemble, Op. 29, Reflections, 9 Miniatures for Orchestra, Op. 49

CD Supraphon

Two Fantasias, Op. 32
Four Preludes, Op. 48

Jan Hora, Petr Cech - organ
CD Vixen