Miloslav Kabelác

Biography

Born: August 1, 1908; Prague, Czech Republic   Died: September 17, 1979; Prague, Czech Republic  
One of the finest of modern Czech composers, Miloslav Kabelác was inspired throughout his life by Czech folklore, and incorporated a variety of modern and avant-garde techniques into his unique, sometimes austere, sometimes violent musical style.

Kabelác studied at the Prague Conservatory, concentrating first on conducting and composing (1928 - 1931), and later studying piano at the Master School with Vilem Kurz (1931 - 1934). For many
Read more years Kabelác worked primarily as a conductor. In 1932 he joined Radio Prague, eventually becoming one of their first music directors. He remained with that organization until 1954, with the exception of an interregnum during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Those World War II years saw his emergence as a composer; one of his most notorious works was the anti-occupation cantata Neustupnujte (Do Not Retreat!, 1939).

Kabelác's Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 15 (1942 - 1946), won a National Prize in 1948 and was performed at the 1949 ISCM Festival. Many of these compositions from the post WWII period, such as the Love Songs, Op. 25 (1955), take their inspiration from Czech folklore. During these years he also began writing distinctive works for large orchestra, such as the passacaglia The Mystery of Time (1957).

From 1958 to 1962 Kabelác taught at the Prague Conservatory, devoting himself thereafter to composing. His music was now starting to reach a worldwide audience. He had his greatest success with the Eight Inventions for percussion instruments, Op. 45 (1962 - 1963), written for Les Percussions de Strasbourg. First performed in 1965 as a ballet, The Minotaur, the Inventions were subsequently given hundreds of performances and several recordings, as well as becoming part of the repertoire of many ballet companies such as that of Alvin Ailey.

A greater angularity, dissonance, and even violence marks works like the Hamlet Improvisation (1963) and Euphemias Mysterion (The Mystery of Silence, 1965). Around this time Kabelác also moved into the realm of electro-acoustic music, giving seminars on the subject at Radio Prague in 1968 - 1970 and producing compositions like E fontibus Bohemicis (6 Tableaux from Czech annals), Op. 55 (1965 - 1972), which incorporates the sound of a famous Prague bell combined with familiar chorale melodies and words from Czech history.

During the "Prague Spring" of the 1960s Kabelác's works were frequently performed in his homeland -- he even received the title Merited Artist in 1967 -- but after the 1968 crackdown his music virtually disappeared from Czech concert programs. Elsewhere, though, his music continued to be performed. The last of his eight symphonies, "Antiphonies" (Op. 54, 1970), was premiered in 1971 at the 33rd International Music Festival in Strasbourg in a concert that was broadcast all over the world. His last work, Metamorphoses, was completed in 1979, the year of his death from a brain tumor. Read less

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