Reflections on the events of August 1968
The PKF – Prague Philharmonia will be recalling an important year when it commemorates 100 years since the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic. This anniversary will be marked by Czecho-Slovak performers in a gala concert at the Rudolfinum on 7 October, as well as by the five-part cycle Beauty of Today (S).
If we look at the 2018–2019 programme for references to the events from August 1968, then we will find two magnificent works – Music for Prague 1968 by Karel Husa, and the electro-acoustic composition Avete morituri by Miloslav Ištvan from 1970.
Husa’s Music for Prague 1968 is interesting in that it is solely for wind and percussion instruments. He was inspired to write it after listening to a BBC radio report on the events of 21 August. Since its premiere the composition has been performed almost 8,000 times. The composer, who is also a Pulitzer Prize winner for his String Quartet No. 3 (also from 1968), studied under Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger, and personally knew such towering figures as Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky, became world famous, and is today one of the most frequently performed Czech composers of the 20th century. Music for Prague 1968 combines music from the past and the present: an old Hussite chorale from the 15th century; the bells from Prague’s one hundred spires and birdcall as a symbol of freedom. The first performance of this imposing work in Czechoslovakia had to wait until 1990. (details of the concert on 7 Oct 2018)
Miloslav Ištvan’s Avete morituri for tape recorder from 1970 is one of the highpoints from the Brno electro-acoustic studio led by Jiří Hanousek. Hanousek was dismissed in 1971, left the country, and the studio’s activities came to an end. Avete morituri or ‘For those about to die, we salute you’, paraphrases the famous words of the Roman gladiators, Ave Caesar, morituri te salutant. The title is addressed to the occupation forces of 1968. In his work Ištvan used the so-called compositional technique of ‘montage’. In combination with the works of two other icons of electro-acoustic music – Miloslav Kabeláč and Luigi Nono – you will be able to enjoy this unique composition as part of the cycle Beauty of Today on 13 Nov 2018 at the Experimental Space NoD.