Cancellation Leads to International Prize

Prague Philharmonic Choir

The Prague Philharmonic Choir will perform Mr Klusák's new composition this fall.

How a Cancellation Led to an International Prize

“It was supposed to be an a cappella quartet for mixed voices,” the composer says. “It was supposed to be premiered in the rotunda of a small, 11th century church in Prague, during an all-evening musical/spiritual program. It was supposed to be part of an evening of meditation.”

But the premiere performance of composer Martin Klusák’s Psalm 57 was canceled.

So instead, Mr Klusák, 25, reworked the piece and entered it in the First International Composers Competition sponsored by the Prague Philharmonic Choir (Pražský Filharmonický Sbor). It won.

It took first place in the category for mixed voices, Zbyněk Havránek of the Philharmonic’s public relations and marketing department announced last week. Ironically, of the 151 entries from 27 countries, Mr Klusák’s entry was the only winner by a Czech composer, although many of the entries were by Czechs. Italian composer Beatrice Barazzoni won first place in the category for women’s voices, the jury awarded no prize in the men’s category, and Croatian composer Ivan Božičević also won first place for mixed voices.

The Grand Prize, to be awarded to all three composers, is the world premiere of their works with the Philharmonic Choir, and a studio recording by Czech Radio.

“I wanted to compose a vocal piece on a Biblical text,” Mr Klusák explains to Opus Osm, “based on early European composing techniques. The text of this psalm fascinated me not only for its clear structure, but also for its contrasting verses and their expressiveness.”

Martin Klusak

Martin Klusák

He says his musical inspiration came from various early styles, primarily medieval ars nova music. This style originated in France in the 14th century, when musical themes were shifting from a strictly religious to a secular subject. “The composition system in my piece is also inspired by the principles of Renaissance counterpoint and the scale of natural harmonic overtones,” the composer adds.

But he doesn’t necessarily expect listeners to identify such motifs in the piece. “I would be happy if people could feel the beauty and mystery of medieval music resonating in my composition, he says.

“Now I’m very curious to hear how it will sound by a large choir,” he adds.

Mr Klusák won awards at the 2010 and 2011 Musica Nova composition competitions for electro-acoustic music, and he is studying composition at the Academy of Arts (HAMU). His next project is to finish a concertino for harp and small orchestra.

“The theme and mood will be completely different from those of Psalm 57,” he says. “It will be an image of a non-real, fantastic world, a few chapters from a wonderland fairy tale.”

The new piece will premiere Oct 26 at the Lichtenstein Palace, in a concert of the composition department of the Academy’s Faculty of Music. — oo

– Mary Matz


Photo Credits: Top: Miroslav Setnička; bottom, Martin Klusák website

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