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Karel Husa: "Music For Prague 1968"

April 13, 2017

 Music for Prague 1968

  1. Introduction and Fanfare

  2. Aria

  3. Interlude

  4. Toccata and Chorale

Karel Husa

Born: August 7, 1921, Prague, Czech Republic

Died: December 14, 2016, Apex, North Carolina

Instrumentation: Large Wind Ensemble

Composed: 1968

Duration: 25 minutes

 

It was late August 1968 when I decided to write a composition dedicated to the city in which I was born. I thought about writing for Prague for some time because the longer I was away from the city, the more I remembered the beauty of it.

 

During the tragic and dark moments for Czechoslovakia in August 1968, I suddenly felt the necessity to write this piece so long meditated. As I watched day and night, I was thinking about that beautiful city where I grew up, and all that it means to me. I was concerned for my sister and family who still lived in Prague. I decided then to write a piece for Prague and what the city has stood for throughout history…

 

Three main ideas bind the composition together. The first and most important is an old Hussite war song from the 15th century, 'Ye Warriors of God and His Law,' a symbol of resistance and hope for hundreds of years, whenever fate lay heavy on the Czech nation. It has been utilized by many Czech composers, including Smetana in Ma Vlast (My Country). The beginning of this religious song is announced very softly in the first movement by timpani and concludes in a strong unison Chorale. The song is never used in its entirety.

 

The second idea is the sound of bells throughout; Prague, named also the City of Hundreds of Towers, has used its magnificently sounding church bells as calls of distress as well as of victory. The last idea is a motif of three chords first appearing very softly under the piccolo solo at the beginning of the piece, in flutes, clarinets, and horns. Later it appears at extremely strong dynamic levels, for example in the middle of the Aria movement…

 

Much symbolism also appears: in addition to the distress calls in the first movement (Fanfares), the unbroken hope of the Hussite song, sound of bells, or the tragedy (Aria), there is also a bird call at the beginning (piccolo solo), symbol of the liberty which the city of Prague has seen only for moments during its thousand years of existence.

- Karel Husa

 

Music for Prague 1968: I. Introduction and Fanfare

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Michael J. Colburn, conductor

 

Music for Prague 1968: II. Aria

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Michael J. Colburn, conductor

 

Music for Prague 1968: III. Interlude

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Michael J. Colburn, conductor

 

Music for Prague 1968: IV. Toccata and Chorale

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band, Michael J. Colburn, conductor

 

 

Additional Resources:

- UMWO Blog Husa Posts

- Karel Husa Obituary (New York Times)

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