Author Topic: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)  (Read 26168 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« on: February 11, 2012, 11:41:18 AM »
The generation of Czech composers born between 1900 and 1914 included a number of interesting figures whose music was recorded on LP by labels like Supraphon and Panton during the 1960s to 1980s but have, sadly, seldom made it to cd.

One of the apparently most interesting is Miloslav Kabelac. Kabelac was a pupil of Alois Haba, the pioneer of the use and integration of microtones into modern music and later of 12-tone techniques. Kabelac combined elements of 12-tone composition with the influence of Gregorian chant and of folk music. He was an active and influential figure both at Prague Radio and as a teacher at Prague Conservatory(where he introduced many young Czech composers to the latest developments in Western avant-garde musical techniques) but was sidelined after the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Kabelac wrote a huge amount of work, orchestral, chamber, organ and choral. His eight symphonies were written for different combinations of instruments:as examples,  the Third is for organ, brass and timpani- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o00Rq2VvOUI; the Eighth for soprano, choir, percussion and organ.

I have the Symphony No.5 "Dramatic" for soprano and orchestra(1960) on cd but the only other piece I can claim to know well of this intriguing composer who, in my estimation deserves much more exposure and investigation, is his quite marvellous Passacaglia for large symphony orchestra "The Mystery of Time"(1953-57). This latter work is fortunate to be included on a Supraphon cd but can be heard here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kxcD0mU9jo&feature=related

"The Mystery of Time" is one of my favourite 20th century compositions, never failing to thrill me as it grows from a sepulchral opening in gradually mounting intensity to a magnificent climax with Janacek-like fanfares underpinned by thunderous brass. I first heard the work on LP almost half a century ago and I still find it the epitome of the phrase 'awe-inspiring' ;D ;D
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 11:45:38 AM by Dundonnell »

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2012, 11:49:49 AM »
Many thanks, Colin! I'll have a listen.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2012, 11:55:12 AM »
There´s also a "Hamlet Improvisation" for orchestra recorded by Ancerl (supraphon) and a "Cello Sonata" on Panton. Haven´t really digged into his works yet, but will probably be giving them a listen, inspired by your thread ... :-). I don´t have the 5th symphony; do you like it ?

It´s a bit peculiar how little biographical material there´s available on Czechoslovak composers in English/German/French on the web, except from the quartet of Smetana, Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu. Hopefully things will gradually change ...

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 12:15:06 PM »
Yes, I do have the Hamlet Improvisation which is on the same disc as "Mystery of Time" and is coupled with Jan Hanus's Symphony Concertante for Organ, Harp, Timpani and Strings.

The Hamet piece a relatively short, brooding piece in a slightly more advanced idiom, certainly impressive and worth hearing. The 5th Symphony I shall need to play again to remind myself what it actually sounds like :)

The problem for these pieces is that the recordings are pretty ancient now; they desperately need to be heard in modern sound. The other tragedy is that composers like Kabelac and composers of Czech symphonies like Feld, Hanus, Kapr, Krejci, Jirasek, Podesva and Valek had to work within a repressive political system. Their more progressive compositions met with official disapproval and many felt themselves forced into artistic compromise.

If only Supraphon would, at least, reissue the original LPs we could actually hear these works-between them the composers I mentioned wrote 59 symphonies :o
Dux in Poland is beginning to explore the Polish repertoire but Supraphon seems to have given up on that whole generation of composers :( :(

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 12:24:02 PM »
I just listened to the Passacaglia. Well, it's grim and inexorable all right. I do find it a bit grey and samey, though. The 'sepulchral' atmosphere of the opening never disappears. I'd liked to have seen more variation. Vermeulen's Passacaille and Cortège and Busoni's Sarabande and Cortège aren't superseded. Nor is the chaconne fourth movement of Brahms' Fourth, or Dopper's Ciaconna gotica (passacaglia and chaconne are closely related). But I am glad to have heard it!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 12:43:03 PM »
"Grim and Inexorable" :)

You will understand why I like it so much then ;D ;D

I shall need to listen to the Vermeulen(a composer I don't usually much care for ;D) again. The Busoni I know-yes, great piece. Brahms 4th-of course :) :) The Dopper I don't know. Has it been recorded??

Just listened again to the Symphony No.5 "Dramatic" :) Of course, I had forgotten it was for coloratura soprano and orchestra and that the soloist "sings" wordlessly throughout....extraordinary piece, sad, brooding, intense, searing ;D
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 12:47:49 PM by Dundonnell »

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2012, 01:10:41 PM »
"Grim and Inexorable" :)

You will understand why I like it so much then ;D



Oh yes!


Vermeulen (Van Beinum, Concertgebouw, 1958): http://www.mediafire.com/?7njjrc11iq8


Dopper (Mengelberg, 1940): http://www.mediafire.com/?mmgenqyzndy
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 01:12:22 PM by J. Z. Herrenberg »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline starrynight

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2012, 01:31:01 PM »
While I might not be that impressed by both videos (from what I heard anyway) I think it would be hard for anyone to live up to the last movement of Brahms 4th symphony, so I think that's a harsh comparison.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2012, 01:41:11 PM »
Quote from: starrynight on Today at 22:31:01
While I might not be that impressed by both videos (from what I heard anyway) I think it would be hard for anyone to live up to the last movement of Brahms 4th symphony, so I think that's a harsh comparison.



I think I softened it by mentioning a few other pieces - none of which equal that amazing movement - which use the form in ways that please me more.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline starrynight

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2012, 02:13:49 PM »
Fair enough, I wouldn't have mentioned it though. :D  Anyway I wasn't that impressed either with what I did hear from that piece.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2012, 02:47:37 PM »

Oh yes!


Vermeulen (Van Beinum, Concertgebouw, 1958): http://www.mediafire.com/?7njjrc11iq8


Dopper (Mengelberg, 1940): http://www.mediafire.com/?mmgenqyzndy

Thanks for these, Johan :)

I had listened to the first half of the Dopper in the Baekels performance on You Tube but this I can keep :D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2012, 02:48:22 PM »
Oh well.....at least I tried :(

I do have to say though that I have always found comparisons between composers or between particular compositions, especially those from different eras, invidious and, usually, unhelpful. In this case the comparisons seem particularly inappropriate ::)
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 03:02:33 PM by Dundonnell »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2012, 12:55:51 AM »
I am an admirer of the grimly compelling Symphony No 5 ('Dramatic') for Soprano and Orchestra.

I rather like this extract from the notes:

'...Kabelac in this dramatic symphony expresses his burning artistic conviction that there is a meaning to human existence and that a spirit guided by a noble thought will ultimately emerge as the victor.' I don't know if this is what Kabelac meant or not - but I like the thought!

Ancerl gives a fine, live 1961 performance in Prague.

"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2012, 01:12:36 AM »
Oh well.....at least I tried :(

I do have to say though that I have always found comparisons between composers or between particular compositions, especially those from different eras, invidious and, usually, unhelpful. In this case the comparisons seem particularly inappropriate ::)

Perhaps I can make my point a bit clearer - Kabelac's Passacaglia is a bit like Ravel's Bolero, it draws its effect from a steady intensification. But what I like about the chaconne and passacaglia as a form is that it offers the composer the possibilty to create variations 'on top' so to speak, whilst the bass remains the same. A passacaglia is a frame, like the sonnet form, and it's up to the composer/poet to 'enrich' that as much as possible. That's why I do think that in this case comparisons are valid. To my ears Kabelac's Passacaglia lacks variety and that's why I can't be as enthusiastic.... Those things happen!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2012, 03:36:41 AM »
Back when I was living in Prague, I heard Belohlavek conduct Kabelac's 4th Symphony for chamber orchestra. I liked the piece enough that the next day I went to the Bonton on Wenceslaus Sq. (ah, the good old days of physical record stores!) and bought this disc, which is an excellent anthology of his work:

formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2012, 04:41:34 PM »
Perhaps I can make my point a bit clearer - Kabelac's Passacaglia is a bit like Ravel's Bolero, it draws its effect from a steady intensification. But what I like about the chaconne and passacaglia as a form is that it offers the composer the possibilty to create variations 'on top' so to speak, whilst the bass remains the same. A passacaglia is a frame, like the sonnet form, and it's up to the composer/poet to 'enrich' that as much as possible. That's why I do think that in this case comparisons are valid. To my ears Kabelac's Passacaglia lacks variety and that's why I can't be as enthusiastic.... Those things happen!

Ah....but I like Bolero ;D

Anyway, again with respect, my listening to a piece is based on a rather simple premise-not, could the composer have done this better or how does it compare with other works written in a similar form-but to 'does this piece grip me, excite me, move me'. You see, really I am a pretty simple soul, largely untutored and distinctly ill-informed about the technicalities of music. All I can do is to respond emotionally to the sounds I hear and if those sounds elicit an emotional reaction, if they make me sit up, if they make me want to rush to get my baton and start waving it frantically in the air ;D ;D then I know that the piece in question has "done it for me".

The Kabelac does :) Of course, I cannot expect everyone (or, indeed, anyone) else to share my enthusiasms.......but if I don't try to encourage others then I shall never know :(
It is disappointing if others do not react as I was hoping they might.....but, as you imply, one cannot win them all ;D  I shall continue.....it must be the old schoolteacher in me ;D ;D

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2012, 04:56:03 PM »
Nothing wrong with trying to interest people in the things you are passionate about, Colin. I do that every time! Some are 'converted', others yawn...  ;D
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2012, 05:45:25 PM »
Thank you both :)

Anyway...on the basis that "it's not what you know but who you know" that counts-

I sent the link to a friend of mine who just happens to be the father of a young professional conductor just about to have his first cd issued. The father was impressed enough to have sent the link on to the son :)  So....who knows ;D

Offline UB

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2012, 07:42:44 PM »

I think that this comment pretty much express my reactions to the Mystery of Time when I first heard it over a decade ago on a Supraphon CD that also included his Hamlet Improvisation and Janacek's Glagolitic Mass. It was a great used buy for $3. BTW I bought the CD for the Janacek since I had never heard of Kabelac.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Miloslav Kabelac(1908-79)
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2012, 08:38:20 PM »
I think that this comment pretty much express my reactions to the Mystery of Time when I first heard it over a decade ago on a Supraphon CD that also included his Hamlet Improvisation and Janacek's Glagolitic Mass. It was a great used buy for $3. BTW I bought the CD for the Janacek since I had never heard of Kabelac.

Yeah, those are similar to my thoughts as well when I first heard Mystery of Time. I have to thank Colin for introducing it to me. I've never even heard Kabelac before. I don't know why this is. I usually am quite in an exploratory mood when it comes to Czech music, especially 20th Century Czech music. Anyway, I bought this same recording you have (w/ Glagolitic Mass). Can't wait to hear it through my stereo. 8)
« Last Edit: February 12, 2012, 08:40:53 PM by Mirror Image »
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