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Petr Eben Dies At 78

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Czech composer Petr Eben, whose wide variety of music has been performed around the globe, has died. He was 78.

 

Eben died late Wednesday at his home in Prague, his son Marek told the CTK news agency Thursday. He was battling an unspecified long-term illness.

 

Born Jan. 22, 1929, Eben showed a musical talent at early age. He was able to play piano at age 6 and organ at 9. A year later, he composed his first musical pieces.

 

After World War II, when he was interned by the Nazis in the Buchenwald concentration camp, he studied piano and composition at Prague's Academy of Music, and taught at Prague's Charles University and the Academy of Performing Arts.

 

From 1977-78, Eben was teaching composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.

 

Throughout his career, he composed some 200 pieces, including works for organ and piano, orchestral and chamber compositions, masses, cantatas and music for children. Among them: the organ cycle "Job," the oratorio "Sacred Symbols" for the Salzburg Cathedral, "Windows" (4 movements according to Marc Chagall for trumpet and organ), and "Prague Te Deum."

 

He performed his music around the world, giving improvisational organ and piano concerts in such venues as Paris' Notre Dame, London's Royal Festival Hall and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.

 

He was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France in 1991 and received a high Czech decoration, the Medal of Merit, in 2002.

 

Source

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Very sad to read that. Some of his organ music was difficult for a listener, but some of it amongst the best. Some nice choral music as well, his Suite liturgica is recorded on Supraphon which I find attractive. Many years ago I met him when he was at Manchester and Susan Landale gave a recital of his music - all from memory I might add.

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Very sad to read that. Some of his organ music was difficult for a listener, but some of it amongst the best. Some nice choral music as well, his Suite liturgica is recorded on Supraphon which I find attractive. Many years ago I met him when he was at Manchester and Susan Landale gave a recital of his music - all from memory I might add.

 

Sad, indeed. We have more than just 'Sunday Music' to be grateful for. Some may recall a fascinating lecture on Improvisation at the ICO in Cambridge in 1987. Taking a small picture of two apples, he sat down at the piano and somehow, miraculously, brought the image to life in music. A charming and unassuming person to meet, as well.

 

JS

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I've never actually got around to learning any of his organ compositions. Which works would people recommend?

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I've never actually got around to learning any of his organ compositions. Which works would people recommend?

 

The Sunday Music is the most frequently performed work, but my favourite is the "Hommage a Buxtehude" in which Eben continues wonderfully the spirit of invention of the Lubeck Master. One section of it certainly "swings"!

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The Sunday Music is the most frequently performed work

Do many people play the whole thing? I'd love to hear the last movement which looks rather exciting (but fearsomely difficult).

 

I have a cracking performance by John Scott Whiteley of Mutationes from Haderslev Cathedral on one of Priory's "Great European Organs" CDs.

 

Gunther Rost has several Eben tracks on his website - go to the "samples" page and scroll down. I particularly enjoyed the Dance of David.

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Peter King at Bath Abbey plays his music quite a bit and has worked with him in Prague. He has recorded some of it on the Klais at Bath - 'very exciting sounds generally - he played the Finale from Sunday Music at a BIOS 'do' not long after the organ went in - an amazing performance!

 

AJJ

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Moto Ostinato is of course a real party piece and great to watch at the end, with the player bouncing quickly from one manual to the next. I love his Four Biblical Dances, especially the final one depicting the Wedding at Cana. It's less dour than some of his music, likewise the drunken Student Songs movement of Faust.

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Moto Ostinato is of course a real party piece and great to watch at the end, with the player bouncing quickly from one manual to the next.

 

You can see Moto Ostinato being performed by Arjen Leistra on the 1831 Batz organ at the Domkerk, Utrecht, in these three clips:

 

Moto Ostinato 1

Moto Ostinato 2

Moto Ostinato 3

 

Apart from the spectular jumping around from manual to manual towards the end, I find it fascinating to watch the two registrants in action in almost every bar.

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Not many organist/composers attain the sort of wide international respect as that enjoyed by Peter Eben during his life. A prolific composer, who covered many different genres in addition to the organ works, the dominant influence of his student days was the legacy of Janácek, and a musical language which contained both free-floating tonality and modality; this latter quality derived from a very specific region within the former Czechoslovakia (close to the Polish border), where the folk-music was modal rather than diatonic, and of which Janácek made a particular study.

 

Add to this Janácek's work as a theorist, and his fascination with folk-speech rhythms; the musical language which emerged was both radical and original. (The inter-relationships of semitones and fourth intervals killing stone dead the tonic-dominant relationships of Dvorak and Smetana, and introducing considerable moments of dissonance).

 

Much has been made about Petr Eben's internment at the ghastly Buchenwald concentration-camp during his formative teenage years, but in reality, that particular suffering was only a part of a wider exposure to the tyranny which sought to overwhelm and subject the independence of the former Czechoslovakia (before 1930, the fourth wealthiest country in the world). That horrific and brutal period was followed by an equally horrific, hard-line communist regime; the sole aim of which was to prosecute the will of Moscow, and Josef Stalin in particular, in a post war reign of terror which went into the very heart of Prague itself, in the torture chambers and cells which eliminated or sent mad those who challenged the ruling party.

 

Furthermore, Petr Eben was working under the auspices of an officially atheistic regime, and both organ and church music were therefore regarded as dissident art. There is no doubt but that the officials who allied themselves with the communists, were quite capable of destroying individual careers, or of freezing people out of the mainstream of artistic endeavour.

 

Perhaps this explains much of the dissonant harshness of Eben's early works, which perhaps express the turmoil and angst of a nation subjected and brutalised into a callous new order, where independence of spirit and religious expression were frowned upon. Thus, in Eben's music, there is a dark side, which often hinges around a sense of doom and mortality.

 

In his later works, Eben found a new lyricism, which is particularly apparent in his choral and vocal works; by which time he had moved away from the strict influence of Janácek . As with much Czech music, perhaps the most striking thing is the use of rhythm, which often holds everything together when all else fails, and very often reflects the essence of folk-music and Czech folk-dances. The "Four Biblical Dances" demonstrate this admirably.

 

There is no doubt but that Eben was a giant in his own land; a multilingual, unusually well-read, free-spirited individual, who circumnavigated as best he could, the obstacles thrown in his path, and against a background of considerable personal suffering and bitter memories.

 

Therein lies a problem for me, because coming from the easy-going body-politic of post-war Western Europe, and the comfortable lifestyle we all enjoy, Eben's music seems somehow challenging and disturbing in equal measure, and it is not music to which I easily relate; save for the very exciting "Moto Ostinato" from the "Musica Dominicalus" (formerly known as "Sunday Music") and a few of his choral and vocal works.

 

Perhaps history will judge Eben's achievements better than I ever can, but I suspect that he will always be remembered as an outstanding organ-composer in the Central European, post-war tradition.

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You can see Moto Ostinato being performed by Arjen Leistra on the 1831 Batz organ at the Domkerk, Utrecht, in these three clips:

 

Moto Ostinato 1

Moto Ostinato 2

Moto Ostinato 3

 

Apart from the spectular jumping around from manual to manual towards the end, I find it fascinating to watch the two registrants in action in almost every bar.

 

Actually, he cheats near the very end, staying on one manual - this is tighter by far:

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Actually, he cheats near the very end, staying on one manual - this is tighter by far:

 

 

========================

 

 

Mmmmmm......there are two versions of the work.

 

:rolleyes:

 

MM

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The Variations on Good King Wenceslas are excellent, as is the Hommage to Buxtehude. The latter makes a good recital piece if you play it with the three Buxtehude pieces it uses.

 

There is a small Choral Partita (the name of which escapes me) which I learnt as a student which is a simpler piece if you want something not too taxing.

 

Echo the comments on Wedding at Cana (excellent recording by Mag Phillips on Regent), though I've never been able to get too excited about Sunday Music. The last movement of Job is well worth learning also.

 

SOmewhere, I have a recording of an organ concerto by him, but needs repeated listenings to get into.

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2 Versetti and Momenti d'organo are both quite straightforward and approachable.

 

I also like the Biblical dances - the Shulammite dance is particularly alluring. And given the anniversary in 09 don't forget the Hommage a Purcell.

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Thanks for all those suggestions, folks! I'll certainly look at some Eben. G :P

 

 

===========================

 

 

It's good to think that someone is going to the trouble to look up some Czech music and perhaps learn it.

 

Perhaps this is as good a time as any to remind folks of the output of Czech composers during the 20th/21st centuries.

The following is a representative, but my no means exhaustive list of organ works:-

 

 

ORGAN WORKS FROM CZ

 

 

 

 

Šárová Dagmar, Musica per organo 1984

 

Bárta Lubor, Dve triové sonáty pro varhany

 

Berg Josef, Varhanní skladba

 

Bodorová Sylvie, (1954): Musica per organo

 

Bláha Ivo, Klenby 1986

Hymnus 1980

 

Blatný Josef, Sonata 1937

Toccata a Scherzo op. 38 1955

 

Burghauser Jarmil, Ciaccona per il fine d´un tempo

 

Ceremuga Josef, De profundis clamavi 1969

 

Dadák Jaromír, Per aspera ad astra

 

Douša Eduard, Sonata per organo 1980

 

Dvorácek Jirí, Improvviso 1982

Sonáta 1982

 

Emmert František, Sonáta pro varhany

 

Fiala Petr, Toccata dramatica 1976

 

Fišer Luboš, Relief pro varhany 1964

 

Flosmann Oldrich, Vodní hry 1981

 

Graham Peter, Dolcissima mia vita 1987

Hudba pro varhany 1977

 

Hanuš Jan, Contemplazioni op. 64 1969

Sonata "Omaggio a Michelangelo" (1475-1975) 1975

 

Havlík Vladimír, Pracambulum

Scherzo

Sonatina

 

Hlobil Emil, Apoteosa, op. 89 1973

Aria e Toccata, op. 46 1964

Toccata

Invocazione

 

HORÍNKA Slavomír, Fénix, pro varhany

 

Hruška Jaromír, st. Dve skladby 1979

 

Chlubna Osvald, Allegto feroce, Passcaglia Adagio

 

Šimek Otto, Ricercar sopra B-A-C-H 1972

 

Šín Otakar, Malá suita 1937

 

Janecek Karel, Toccata

Preludium, fughetta a chorál op. 28 1952

Preludium, fughetta a chorál op. 31 1958

 

Janacek Leos,

 

Overture; Varyto

Chorale Fantasia (Two Compositions for Organ)

Glagolitic Mass (1926)

Adagio I

Adagio II.

 

 

Jelínek Stanislav, Introdukce a toccata 1989

 

Jirák Karel Boleslav, Pet malých preludií a fug, op. 77 1957

Suita, op. 86 1964

Passacaglia a fuga 1971

 

 

Jirásek Jan, (1955): Ad unum

 

Kabelác Miloslav, Fantasia g moll op. 32 1958

 

Kalabis Viktor, Affresco sinfonico

 

Kofron Petr, Pro varhany 1981

 

Kohoutek Ctirad, Rapsodia eroica 1963-5

 

Kopecký Pavel, Sfingy 1976 (The sphinx)

 

Krivinka Gustav, Sonatina (Moravská) 1949

 

Kvech Otomar, Pražské panorama 1982

Variacní sonáta pro varhany na témata 1. symfonie Antonína Dvoráka

 

Laburda Jirí, Preludio e fuga per organo

 

Loudová Ivana, Monument 1984

 

Lucký Štepán, Rapsodia pro varhany 1981

 

Lukáš Zdenek, Pražské pastorale 1981

 

Mácha Otmar, Smutecní toccata

Svatební toccata 1974

 

Martinu Bohuslav, Vigilia 1959

 

Matej Josef, Fantasia 1981

 

Matoušek Lukáš, Sonáta pro housle a klavír 1980

 

Michálek František, Dve chorálové predehry

 

Musil František, Sonata solemnis

 

Odstrcil Karel, Otisky v kameni

Toccata 1976

Zimní slunovrat

 

 

Pálenícek Josef, Varhanní interludium z VI. obrazu Poemy o cloveku

 

Pelikán Miroslav, Toccata, improvsio e fuga pro varhany

 

Petrová Elena, Preludium a Passacaglia pro varhany

 

Pololáník Zdenek,

Allegro affanato 1963

Burlesca 1981

sultazio e pianto 1975

 

Reinberger Jirí, Oblíbené varhanní skladby

 

 

Reiner Karel, 3 preludia

 

Riedlbauch Václav, Defilé pro varhany (1. verze) 1978

Záves 1982

efilé

 

Ropek Jirí, Toccata a fuga 1980

"Vietimae Paschali Laudes"

 

Rezác Ivan, Andante 1966

Capriccio 1963

4 ritornely 1973

 

 

Sklenicka Karel, Sonata per organo 1960

Variationes quadragesimae 1973

 

 

Slavický Klement, (1910): Ecce homo (a variation fantasia)

 

 

Slavický Milan, Monolit 1979

Oci 1983

 

 

Sluka Luboš, Cesta ticha

Cesty

Via del Silenzio

 

 

Smetana Bedrich, Fuga A dur

6 Preludes for Organ - 1846

Lento in C major 03:14

Grave in C minor 02:28

Patorale. Moderato in G major 02:31

Adante 01:51

Moderato in D major 01:43

Andante in F major 01:39

 

 

Smolka Jaroslav, Metamorfózy 1980-82

 

Soukup Vladimír, Musica per organo

 

Svatoš Vladimír, Dve fantasie 1981

 

Teml Jirí, Alchymisté 1984

Fantasia appassionata 1972

 

Vacek Miloš, Organum Pragense

 

Vackár Dalibor C. , Tri eseje 1981

 

Vanhal Jan Krtitel, Varhanní skladby starých ceských mistru

 

Werner Vladimír, (1937): Sequentiae per organo

 

 

Wiedermann Bedrich Antonín, (1883-1951)

Toccata and Fugue in F minor

Oblíbené varhaní skladby

Pastorale dorico

Varhaní skladby

 

 

Zenkl Michal, Chorály života 1979

 

Zimmer Ján, Fantasia e toccata

 

 

THIS from a country the size of Scotland!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

:P

 

MM

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The Variations on Good King Wenceslas are excellent, as is the Hommage to Buxtehude. The latter makes a good recital piece if you play it with the three Buxtehude pieces it uses.

 

There is a small Choral Partita (the name of which escapes me) which I learnt as a student which is a simpler piece if you want something not too taxing.

 

Echo the comments on Wedding at Cana (excellent recording by Mag Phillips on Regent), though I've never been able to get too excited about Sunday Music. The last movement of Job is well worth learning also.

 

SOmewhere, I have a recording of an organ concerto by him, but needs repeated listenings to get into.

 

 

=======================

 

 

I think the Choral Partita to which you refer is this:-

 

 

Mala choralni partita 1978. Publisher: Universal Edition

 

MM

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Blimey, MM, I've only one lifetime in which to learn pieces.......! :P

 

 

=======================

 

 

Well, then there's the romantic stuff and the baroque; not to mention the classical period.

 

Oooops! Nearly forgot the 20 or so organ concerti!!!!!!!

 

Forgot to mention Sokola too, whom Jennifer Bate rates highly.

 

Like I said....the size of Scotland....quite staggering!

 

MM

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