Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006)
MSR 1350 (3 CDs)
First Release On Compact Disc
Digitally Remastered From Supraphon Sources





Zuzana Rŭžičková, piano & harpsichord
Josef Suk, violin
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Prague Chamber Soloists
Vlach Quartet
Suk Trio
  1. CD1 : Recorded October 1957 [1-3], February 1975 [4-5] and April 1984 [6-7]
    Piano Concerto No.1, Op.12 (1954)

      1.   Allegro moderato
      2.   Andante
      3.   Allegro vivo
     Symphony No.4, Op.34 (1972)
      4.  Grave
      5.  Allegro
    Two Worlds - Ballet Music, Op.54 (1980)
      6.  Allegro
      7.  Andante
  2. CD2 : Recorded May 1956 [5-9], January 1965 [2-4], February 1965 [10-12] and September 1980 [1].
      1.  Symphony No.5 [Fragment], Op.43 (1976)
    Chamber Music for Strings, Op.21 (1963)
      2.  Andantino
      3.  Allegro vivo
      4.  Adagio, molto quieto
    Divertimento for Wind Quintet, Op.10 (1952)
      5.  Allegro con moto
      6.  Allegro vivo
      7.  Andante, poco rubato
      8.  Vivo; Allegro molto
      9. Allegro ma non troppo
    String Quartet No.2, Op.19 (1962-3)
    10.  Prologue Adagio molto quieto
    11.  Allegro molto
    12.  Epilogue: Adagio
  3. CD3 : Recorded February 1975 [13-14], July 1976 [1-6, 10-12] and September 1976 [7-9].
    Six 2-Voice Canonic Inventions for Harpsichord, Op.20 (1962)

      1.  Canon in 5
      2.  Canon in 6
      3.  Canon in 4
      4.  Canon in 8
      5.  Canon in 7
      6.  Canon in 3
    Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord, Op.28 (1967)
      7.  Allegro Moderato
      8.  Andante
      9.  Allegro vivo
    Trio for Piano, Violin and Violoncello, Op.39 (1974)
    10.  Vivo
    11.  Adagio
    12.  Allegro vivo
    Sonata for Trombone and Piano, Op.32 (1970)
    13.  Moderato
    14.  Allegro drammatico

Program Notes

The eleven Kalabis works included on this 3-disc release were originally recorded in analogue for the 33-1/3 rpm long-play format by the Czech recording firm of Supraphon. These eleven works were composed by Kalabis between the years 1952-1980 and were recorded by Supraphon in 1956-1984. Inasmuch as the communist control of Czechoslovakia began in 1948 and the “velvet revolution” occurred in 1989, all of the music on this release was composed and recorded under communist rule. Fortunately, even under that repressive regime the audio technicians at Supraphon were excellent, and in this digital reissue we can enjoy the clear, spacious sound for which Supraphon was admired.

“Kalabis left us a masterful oeuvre. We count him among the great ones of the second half of the 20th century. His musical universe combines both necessary elements, i.e., an artistic sense developed to rareheights coupled with a completely professional mastery. With great strength of expression he reflects both the joys and the convulsions of our times together with a clearly humanist message, never falling into the trap of facility or superficiality. I avow that I deeply love Kalabis’s music and hope that more and more people will discover it.”

Karel van Eycken, from “Movement Janáček” No.54, July 2007

Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006) became one of the most important Czech composers in the last half of the 20th century. A master of composition, he developed a musical style entirely his own. He endured the poverty, scorn and hardship of life under totalitarian regimes -- first under the Nazis and then under communism. His music, therefore, may be characterized as a combination of struggle and sadness tempered with optimism. Listening to his music, one becomes aware of the triumph of the human spirit over darker forces. Other writers have suggested that a recurrent theme in his music is the sadness of the fleeting fate of human life, individually and collectively. In any case, Kalabis’ music is a witness to the political and social repercussions of a repressed society, in addition to attributes that can be associated with freedom: humor, imagination, beauty, and ultimately a faith in the dignity of mankind. These are profound themes expressed abstractly in his music.

Viktor Kalabis was born on 27 February 1923 in a small town in eastern Bohemia , the only child of postal employees. At an early age he showed musical talent as a pianist. As a teenager he sang in a choir and played in a jazz band. This idyllic childhood ended when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia . Because of poor eyesight, Viktor avoided conscription by the Nazis and was allowed to be a teacher, work in an airplane factory, and perform administrative duties. After the war, he studied at the Prague Conservatory (1945-48) and at the Academy of Performing Arts (1948-52). He also enrolled in Charles University , studying composition, musicology, philosophy and psychology, among other subjects. In 1948, freedom came to another abrupt end in Czechoslovakia when communist rule began. Subsequently, the academic authorities sympathetic to the regime refused to accept Kalabis’ thesis on Stravinsky and Bartó, whom they considered to be “decadent bourgeois formalists”. (It was not until 1990 that Viktor finally received his doctorate, thanks to Válav Havel, in a rehabilitation ceremony with many other distinguished persons.)

As a young composer, Kalabis also had to endure the demeaning cultural directives of the authorities, who looked upon his music with great suspicion. One critic detected a chorale in his first symphony, which was thereafter forbidden to be performed. Another one wrote, “Our workers demand music which reflects their sincere and heartfelt joy in the building of our socialist future. The road which Kalabis takes with no little self-confidence leads back, not forward! He should abolish those dissonant harmonies, be more active in the “Socialist Youth!” and learn from those new people rather than from the scores of western modernists.” At that time, this was a dangerous warning.

In 1951, Viktor first met Zuzana Růžičková a greatly gifted young harpsichordist and pianist who had survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen . Viktor studied piano with her in the composition class at the Academy of Music in Prague . They fell in love, and within a year they were married. It was a brave marriage, partly because of Zuzana’s Jewish heritage and partly because her family was viewed by the communists as “capitalist” in having owned a department store. It was not until the end of 1953 that Viktor finally found employment, working as a producer and dramaturge in the “Music for Children” department of the Czechoslovak Radio, a position in which he remained for nearly two decades. During this time, he found time to compose, and by 1960 had written 17 opuses, including a piano concerto, a symphony and a violin concerto.

During the Khrushchev era, life improved somewhat for Viktor and Zuzana, although both staunchly refused to join the communist party. She was allowed to travel abroad – the state greedily confiscated her western-currency earnings – and she signed a contract to record the complete Bach keyboard works for the Erato label. With Václav Neumann she founded the Prague Chamber Soloists, and with the great violinist Josef Suk formed a duo which continued to perform for 37 years. Viktor responded to these developments by composing new works. From 1963-72 he wrote 13 opuses. After the Soviet invasion in 1968, he could no longer bear the atmosphere of oppression and, again refusing to join the party, left the Radio in 1970. In the decade that followed, he composed 25 new works. Thanks mainly to the success of her many recordings, Zuzana’s musical reputation grew to international status, and she became one of the best-known instrumentalists living behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, she became a living legend.

In November 1989, the communist regime in Czechoslovakia collapsed and Viktor and Zuzana were “rehabilitated,” Viktor having been offered a post as head of the music department of Czechoslovak Radio - yet too late. He rejected it, giving all his last strength to the rebuilding of the Martinu* Foundation and Institute, serving as its president from 1990 to 2003. Viktor continued to compose until 2003, when his eyesight failed, and he died on 28 September 2006. He left a magnificent legacy of 92 numbered musical works, including five symphonies, two violin concertos, other concertos for violoncello, for piano, for trumpet, and for harpsichord, seven string quartets, many other chamber music pieces, works for solo piano, harpsichord, vocal works, and one ballet. The world of music has been greatly enriched by his unique creative talents.

John Solum, April 2010

Supporting Kalabis activities in the Czech Republic : Viktor Kalabis and Zuzana Růžičková Foundation ( Prague )

Supporting Kalabis activities in the United States : Viktor Kalabis and Zuzana Růžičková Foundation, Inc.