Kurka, Robert (Frank)

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Kurka, Robert (Frank)

Kurka, Robert (Frank), American composer; b. Cicero, 111., Dec. 22, 1921; d. N.Y., Dec. 12, 1957. He studied violin with Kathleen Parlow and Hans Letz, and composition with Luening and Milhaud, but considered himself autodidact. He received a Guggenheim fellowship (1951–52), and taught at the City Coll. of N.Y., Queens Coll., and Dartmouth Coll. His satirical opera, The Good Soldier Schweik, the composition of which was delayed for years due to problems in clearing rights for the libretto and which existed only as an orchestral suite until 1956, was completed shortly before his untimely death from leukemia and was orchestrated by Hershy Kay; it was premiered with extraordinary success at the N.Y.C. Center on April 23, 1958. Kurka’s music, though quite melodic, makes use of harmonious dissonance, imbuing neo- Classical forms with a rhythmic and harmonic intuition reminiscent of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.


dramatic: oρera:The Good Soldier Schweik, after J. Hasek (1952-57; N.Y., April 23, 1958; as a chamber orch. suite, N.Y., Nov. 24, 1952). orch.: Chamber Sym. (1946; N.Y., March 7, 1948); Sym. for Brass and Strings (1948; N.Y., March 13, 1950); Violin Concerto (1948); Music for Orchestra (1949); 3 Pieces (1951); 2 numbered syms.: No. 1 (1951) and No. 2 (1953; San Diego, July 8, 1958); Serenade for Small Orch. (La Jolla, Calif., June 13, 1954); John Henry, portrait (1954); Julius Caesar, symphonic epilogue after Shakespeare (San Diego, July 12, 1955); Concertino for 2 Pianos, Strings, and Trumpet (1955); Marimba Concerto (1956; NY., Nov. 11, 1959); Ballad for Horn and Strings (1956); Chamber Sinfonietta (1957). chamber: 5 string quartets (1945, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1954); 4 violin sonatas (1946, 1949, 1953, 1955); Sonata for Solo Violin (1947); Music for Violin, Trumpet, Clarinet, Horn, and Double Bass (1951); Piano Trio (1951); 7 Moravian Folksongs for Wind Quintet (1951); Cello Sonatina (1953). piano: Sonatina (1947); For the Piano, suite (1951); Sonata (1952); Dance Suite for Piano, 4-Hands (1955); Sonatina for Young Persons (1957). vocal:Who Shall Speak for the People for Men’s Chorus and Orch., after Sandburg (1956); Song of the Broad-Axe for Men’s Chorus (1956); songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire