Composers Datebook®

Viktor Kalabis

Composers Datebook - Feb. 27, 2024


Today’s date marks the birthday of a 20th-century Czech composer you perhaps have never heard of. Viktor Kalabis was born in 1923 and by 6 was giving public piano performances. All signs pointed to a brilliant career. But first, Kalabis had to face — and surmount — two major political hurdles.

First, his formal musical studies were delayed by the Nazi occupation of his country in 1938, when he was forced into factory work; then, after the war, Kalabis met and married young harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova, who was a concentration camp survivor. Kalabis was a gentile, but in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, anti-Semitism was rampant and marrying a Jew was frowned upon. To make matters worse, they refused to join the Communist Party, hardly what one would call a smart career move in those years.

Even so, Kalabis began to attract commissions and performances of his music at home and abroad, and following the 1989 Velvet Revolution, he assumed a more prominent position in his country’s musical life.

His symphonies, concertos and chamber works are now regarded as some of the most important contributions to Czech music in the late 20th century.

Music Played in Today's Program

Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006): Piano Concerto No. 1; Zuzana Ruzickova, p; Czech Philharmonic; Karel Sejna, cond. MRS Classics MS-1350

On This Day


  • 1848 - English composer (Sir) Hubert Parry, in Bournemouth;


  • 1887 - Russian composer Alexander Borodin, age 53, at a fancy dress ball in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Feb. 15);


  • 1729 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 159 ("Sehet, wie gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem") probably performed in Leipzig on Estomihi Sunday as part of Bach's fourth annual Sacred Cantata cycle (to texts by Christian Friedrich Henrici, a.k.a. "Picander") during 1728/29;

  • 1737 - Handel: opera “Giustino,” in London (Julian date: Feb. 16);

  • 1740 - Handel: oratorio “L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato,” in London at Lincoln’s Inn Field, with the premiere of Handel’s Organ Concerto in Bb, Op. 7, no. 1 (Gregorian date: Mar. 9);

  • 1814 - Beethoven: Symphony No. 8, in Vienna, with composer conducting;

  • 1908 - Amy Beach: Piano Quintet, at Boston's Potter Hall, with the Hoffmann Quartet and the composer at the piano;

  • 1913 - Walter Damrosch: opera, "Cyrano de Bergerac," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City;

  • 1915 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 3, in Moscow (Julian date: Feb. 14);

  • 1940 - William Schuman: String Quartet No. 3, at Town Hall in New York City, by the Coolidge Quartet;

  • 1945 - Amy Beach: opera "Cabildo," by the Opera Workshop at the University of Georgia in Athens, directed by Hugh Hodgson; The first professional production occurred on May 13, 1995, at Alice Tully Hall in New York City as a "Great Performances" telecast conducted by Ransom Wilson;

  • 1947 - Hindemith: Piano Concerto, by the Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell conducting, with Jesús Maria Sanromá the soloist;

  • 1947 - Peter Mennin: Symphony No. 3, by the New York Philharmonic, Walter Hendel conducting;

  • 1949 - Elliott Carter: Woodwind Quintet, at Times Hall in New York City, at a new music concert of the National Association for American Composers and Conductors, sharing a program with Henry Cowell's Suite for Wind Quintet, Vincent Perischetti's "Pastorale," Richard Franko Goldman's Duo for Tubas, Ingolf Dahl's "Music for Five Brass Instruments," and a revised version of Carl Ruggles; "Angles" for seven brass instruments;

  • 1949 - Wm. Schuman: Symphony No. 6, by the Dallas Symphony, Antal Dorati conducting;

  • 1950 - Elliott Carter: Cello Sonata, at Town Hall in New York, by cellist Bernard Greenhouse and pianist Anthony Markas;

  • 1958 - Peter Mennin: Piano Concerto, by the Cleveland Orchesttra conducted by George Szell, with Eunice Podis the soloist;

  • 1984 - Libby Larsen: "Parachute Dancing" for orchestra, by the American Composers Orchestra, Tom Nee conducting;

  • 1986 - U. Zimmermann: opera "Weisse Rose" (White Rose), in Hamburg by the Opera stabile;

  • 1999 - Peter Lieberson: Horn Concerto, at Carnegie Hall, with soloist William Purvis and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.


  • 1885 - First documented American performance of Handel's Concerto Grosso in B Minor (op. 6, no.12), by the Boston Symphony, William Gericke conducting.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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