Music for Prague 1968 (Mvt 1) by Karel Husa - Warren Township High School Symphonic Band I





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Published on May 13, 2010

Music for Prague 1968 (1. Introduction and Fanfare)...Karel Husa

The Warren Township High School Symphonic Band was one of eleven bands in their class chosen by audition to perform at the University of Illinois Superstate Concert Band Festival held at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Foellinger Great Hall. The hall is one of the most acoustically perfect places in North America, and will provide reverb of up to five seconds when a chord is perfectly in tune. The performance took place on Saturday, May 8, 2010. The band performed a major college level work entitled "Music for Prague 1968" by Karel Husa. The piece is not often performed by high school bands, and is considered one of the most difficult works in the repertoire for college and profession ensembles.

Symphonic Band I performed with extreme passion, bringing the images the composer had intended to life! Stunned audience and University of Illinois faculty members rushed the stage at the end of the performance!

For the first time in Warren Township High School History, Symphonic Band I was named AAA Honor Band. They were named AA Honor Band back in 1990 back when Warren's population was under 1,500. Symphonic Band I has an automatic invitation to play the final concert at next year's Illinois Superstate Festival.


Music for Prague 1968 received its premiere in Washington, DC, by the Ithaca College Concert Band in January 1969. The orchestral version followed just a year later, first performed under Husa's own baton by the Munich Philharmonic in January 1970. It was written in response to the crushing of the Prague Spring reform movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Many years before the Prague Spring reform, Karel Husa had already suffered physical exile, unable to return home to Czechoslovakia from his studies in France because he was deemed insufficiently supportive of the newly formed Communist regime of the 1940's in Prague. Two decades later, Karel Husa was still in exile but now living in the United States. With the Prague Spring reform of 1968, it seemed that he may soon be able to return to his homeland in peace. Karel Husa was sitting on the dock at his cottage in America, listening to the BBC broadcast of the events of the Prague Spring of 1968 on the radio. With the Communist takeover in the 1940s still fresh in his mind, Husa listened again in dismay as the Prague Spring of 1968 was crushed by Soviet tanks, citizens mowed down, buildings demolished, buses and cars smashed by tanks, the country occupied, and the tantalizing glimpses of freedom gone again. Spurred by anger and frustration of his homeland being torn apart yet again, Husa produced this powerful four-movement work that has become one of the classic in the wind band repertoire, enjoying more than 7,000 performances to date.

The composer usually asks that his own Foreword be reproduced in concert programs. It reads, in part, "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. 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."

To quote Karel Husa directly: "It is not as beautiful a music as one always would like to hear. But we cannot always paint flowers, we cannot always speak in poetry about beautiful clouds, there are sometimes we would like to express the fight for freedom."

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