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 age 6, was giving public piano performances. All the 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 a young harpsichordist named Zuzana Ruzickova, who was a concentration camp survivor. Victor was a Gentile, but in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, anti-Semitism was rampant and marrying a Jew was frowned upon. To make matters worse, both Victor and Zuzana 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, Kalabis 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. 1Zuzana Ruzickova, p; Czech Philharmonic; Karel Sejna, cond.MRS Classics MS-1350
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