Music for Prague 1968

Toccata and chorale

  • Recorded: January 2021
  • Record Place: The Smetana Hall of Municipal House, Prague
  • First Release: 2021
  • (P) 2021 SUPRAPHON a.s.
  • Genre: Orchestral


  • music by: Karel Husa
  • conductor: Tomáš Brauner
  • musical group: Prague Symphony Orchestra


Prague Symphony Orchestra, Tomáš Brauner

Husa: Music for Prague

Catalogue Number: SU 4294-2
Published: 25th June 2021
Genre: Orchestral
Format: 1 CD
Karel Husa (1921-2016) - Music for Prague 1968 (1969), Three Frescoes* (1947), Symphony No. 2, "Reflections" (1983)

Prague Symphony Orchestra, conductor: Tomáš Brauner

Karel Husa - a Czech-born composer whose name resonates more on an international scale than in his native country. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Grawemeyer Award (other recipients include Boulez, Adés, Dun and Ligeti), he was commissioned to write music for the New York Philharmonic, and other distinguished orchestras and artists. The centenary of Karel Husa's birth is a unique opportunity to recall his remarkable fate and oeuvre. During World War II, he lived in Nazi-occupied Prague. Following his graduation from the Prague Conservatory, with a concert performed with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1944), Husa left for Paris to study composition with Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger. The performance in Prague of his Three Frescoes with the Prague Symphony Orchestra in 1949 made it evident that Husa's music no longer fitted the Communist ideologues' pigeonholes. A domestic critic opined: "Taking lessons from Honegger in Paris has served to worsen rather than improve Husa. His technical proficiency is sufficient, so he should come back home quickly, so as to tune into the pulsation of the local life; otherwise he will get lost beyond recovery in the jungles of decadent obscurity." Yet Husa did not return to his homeland, opting instead to continue his studies abroad. Later on, he settled in the USA. When it comes to the Warsaw Pact armies' invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, he got to hear about it on Detroit Radio. Husa expressed his dismay in Music for Prague 1968. The piece contains a quotation of the 15th-century Hussite war song Ktož jsú Boží bojovníci, by which the composer also referenced Václav Talich's emotional performance of Bedřich Smetana's My Country in Nazi-occupied Prague. Husa could only begin freely visiting his beloved Prague in the wake of the November 1989 Revolution, yet he pointed out that he kept strolling the city streets in his dreams and works. The present album maps Husa's creative periods between 1947 and 1983, and it features the very first studio recording of his Three Frescoes. Conducted by Tomáš Brauner, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, closely connected with both Karel Husa and Prague, made the recordings at the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House in Prague.

A portrait of a composer whose music engrossed the world, but whose heart remained in his distant homeland


“Whatever the period, his Czech roots remained, something made clear in Music for Prague 1968, a direct response to that year’s Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia: angry, heartfelt music pockmarked with simulated gunfire, tolling church bells and the nationalist cry of an old Hussite war song. The sonic bombardments of this humanist modernist continue in the Frescoes and his Second Symphony, all delivered in powerhouse performances.”
The Times, June 2021

“Tomáš Brauner and the Prague Symphony Orchestra on this well-recorded disc capture Husa’s attenuated orchestral textures with passion and insight.”
BBC Music Magazine, September 2021

“Tomáš Brauner and the Prague Symphony Orchestra deliver a gripping performance of this powerful work.”
Pizzicato, July 2021

“This is quite the intense disc, superbly recorded and lacking nothing in either virtuosity of execution by the musicians in the orchestra or intensity in performance. Very highly recommended.”
The Art Music Lounge, August 2021

“Overshadowed, perhaps, by his fluency in adapting to become a leading composer for American wind orchestra, Husa's output of powerful works for symphony orchestra, deeply rooted in his homeland and inflected by its turbulent history, has been strangely undervalued. The superb 2nd Symphony of 1983 is compelling, dramatic and monumental – and original in both form and content.”
Records International, September 2021

“Les troupes de Tomas Brauner donnent tout son sens à la référence patriotique dès les premières mesures d’Introduction et fanfare, avant de volontairement l’étouffer dans un Interlude kaléidoscopique. La manière dont le chef dépeint les ténèbres que les Russes jetteront pour les décennies à venir sur la Tchécoslovaquie saisit aussi tout au long de l’Aria.”
Diapason, November 2021

“This is a first-class, extremely well recorded and annotated celebration of Husa’s music. It charts his various staging posts from his student immersion in Parisian culture, Boulanger’s rigour, and the precedent of Honegger’s sym­phonic mastery, via the expressive stridency of Music for Prague 1968 through to Reflections, the symphonic wholeness of which reaffirmed Husa’s belief in traditional forms but also novel sound conjunctions and orchestral colours.”
MusicWeb International, October 2021

“Der hervorragend disponierte Klangkörper wird von der Tontechnik glänzend in Szene gesetzt, was der Musik durchwegs zugute kommt: durchsichtig selbst im Tutti, zugleich aber ohne die sich leider oft dazu einstellende analytische Kühle. Ein starkes Plädoyer für einen in der Alten Welt fast vergessenen Zeitgenossen.”
HörBar der nmz, October 2021

“Husa’s orchestral music does not deserve the neglect that it has received, and this new recording, especially because it includes Three Frescoes, fills a most definite need, and fills it very well, not least because of the Prague Symphony Orchestra’s past association with the composer and with his music. The musicians play the music with affection, even passion, and Brauner shapes the music well and keeps Husa’s sometimes thick textures from turning chaotic. Very good engineering and a helpful booklet note add to the value of this release. This is one of the best and most valuable orchestral releases to come my way so far in 2021.”
Fanfare, December 2021

“L’excellent Symfonický Orchestr Prahy signe un fort beau portrait du compositeur.”
Anaclase, February 2022

“Husa was an important figure in 20th Century Czech music. If you are not familiar with his work, this is a good place to start.”
American Record Guide, January/Febru­ary 2022

“Leurs orchestrations raffinées mais sombres souvent, leur motorisme, une certaine inquiétude fébrile montrent en germe cet art singulier qu’il est temps de redécouvrir : interprétations parfaites – les Fresques sont enregistrées en première mondiale – qui laisse espérer que Tomáš Brauner et son orchestre continueront d’explorer le catalogue symphonique d’un compositeur en passe d’être oublié.”
Artalinna, January 2024

Karel Husa
Symphony No. 2 Reflections
1. Moderato 07:18
2. Very fast 05:00
3. Slow 06:30
Karel Husa
Three Frescoes
4. Praeludium. Moderato molto - Allegro risoluto - Tempo I 09:39
5. Aria. Moderato - Tranquillo 06:48
6. Fuga. Moderato molto - Un poco piu vivo - Allegro con fuoco 08:49
Karel Husa
Music for Prague 1968
7. Introduction and Fanfare 06:04
8. Aria 05:43
9. Interlude 04:22
10. Toccata and chorale 07:54

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