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Eben, Petr

Eben, Petr

Eben, Petr, Czech composer, teacher, organist, and pianist; b. Zamberk, Jan. 22, 1929. He studied piano, cello and organ in Cesky Krumlov, and was active as an organist at St. Vitus Church there while still young. Although his family had embraced the Catholic faith, his father’s Jewish heritage prompted the Nazis occupiers of his homeland to expel Eben from school in 1943 and to send him and his family to the Buchenwald concentration camp. After his liberation in 1945, Eben was determined to follow his intention to become a musician. In 1948 he entered the Prague Academy of Music as a piano student of Frantisek Rauch. In 1950 he entered the composition class of Pavel Bofkovec there, from which he graduated in 1954. In 1955 he became a lecturer in music history at the Charles Univ. in Prague. Eben’s refusal to join the Communist Party and his open espousal of Christianity made his life difficult throughout the long and suffocating years of the Communist regime. He was, however, allowed to serve as a visiting prof, at the Royal Northern Coll. of Music in Manchester in 1978–79. After the Communist regime collapsed in the face of the “velvet revolution” in 1989, Eben finally won recognition as one of his homeland’s most important musicians. In 1989 he was made a senior lecturer at the Charles Univ. He became senior lecturer in composition at the Prague Academy of Music in 1990, and in 1991 he was made a prof, there. Eben was named a Chevalier de 1’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France in 1991, and in 1994 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Charles Univ. His 70th birthday in 1999 was the occasion for many tributes to him in his homeland and abroad. As a performing artist, Eben has demonstrated a mastery of organ improvisation. His mastery, in all the major genres, is also found in his compositions. In addition to his outstanding works for organ, he has also composed compelling choral works of a liturgical nature.

Works

DRAMATIC Faust, incidental music to Goethe’s play (1976); Hamlet, incidental music to Shakespeare’s play (1977); Curses and Blessings, ballet (1983); Jeremias, church opera after Stefan Zweig (1996–97). ORCH.: 2 organ concertos: No. 1, Symphonia gregoriana (1954) and No. 2 (1982); Piano Concerto (1962); Vox clamantis for 3 Trumpets and Orch. (1969); Night Hours, concertante sym. (1975); Prague Nocturne: Hommage a W.A. Mozart (1983); Improperia (1995). CHAMBER: Oboe Sonata (1950); Suita balladica for Cello and Piano (1955); Sonatina semplice for Violin or Flute and Piano (1955); Duetti per due trombe (1956); Duettinos for Soprano Instrument and Piano (1963); Ordo modalis for Oboe and Harp (1964); Quintettto per stromenti a fiato, wind quintet (1965); Fantasia vespertina for Trumpet and Piano (1967); Variations on Chorale, brass quintet (1968–69); Music for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano (1970); Windows for Trumpet and Organ (1976); ”Wood and Wind”, sonata for Flute and Marimba (1978); Tabulatura nova for Guitar (1979); Mutationes for Organ and Piccolo (1980); String Quartet (1981); Fantasia for Viola and Organ (1982); Landscapes of Patmos for Organ and Percussion (1984); Opponents for Clarinet, Piano, and Percussion (1985); Piano Trio (1986); Risonanza for Harp (1986); Tres iubilationes for 4 Brass Instruments and Organ (1987); Harpsichord Sonata (1988); Nonet (1988); 2 Movements for Trombone and Organ (1988); Piano Quintet (1991–92); Apello for Oboe and Piano (1995). KEYBOARD : O r g a n : Sunday Music (1957–59); Laudes (1964); 10 chorale overtures (1971); 2 chorale fantasias (1972); Faust, 9-part cycle (1979- 80); Versetti (1982); Hommage a Dietrich Buxtehude (1987); Job, 8-part cycle (1987); Biblical Dances (1990–91); 2 Festive Préludes (1992); Momenti d’organo (1994); Versio ritmica (1995). Piano : Sonata (1951); Differences and Contrasts, 11 “motion” etudes (1969); Letters to Milena (1990). VOCAL: 6 Love Songs for Medium Voice and Piano (1951); Missa adventus et cjuadragesimae for Men’s Chorus and Organ (1952); The Lover’s Magic Spell for Woman’s Voice and Chorus (1957); Love and Death for Chorus (1957–58); 6 Songs on Rainer Maria Rilke for Low Voice and Piano (1961); Unkind Songs for Alto and Viola (1963); Apologia Socratus for Alto, Baritone, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1967); Trouvere Mass for Chorus, Guitar, and Recorders (1968–69); Cantica Comeniana for Mixed or Women’s Chorus (1970); Pragensia for Chamber Chorus and Renaissance Instruments (1972); Salve Regina for Chorus (1973); Greek Dictionary for Women’s Chorus and Harp (1974); Honor to Charles IV for Men’s Chorus and Orch. (1978); Missa cum populo for Chorus, Congregation, 4 Brass Instruments, and Organ (1981–82); Cantico delle creature for Chorus (1987); Prague Te Deum for Chorus and Brass Instruments or Organ (1990); Verba sapientiae for Chorus (1991); Holy Signs for Chorus, Wind Ensemble, and Organ (1992–93); Anno Domini, oratorio (1998–99).

Bibliography

K. Vondrovicova, P. £. (Prague, 1993; 2nd ed., 1995).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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