Album detail
Catalogue number: SU 4210-2

Viktor Kalabis (1923–2006), one of the most distinguished figures of 20th-century Czech music, wrote dozens of opuses, mainly instrumental pieces, including for his wife, the world-renowned harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková. As he himself put it, his aim was to create music rooted in his country, music for educated listeners. Although he also drew inspiration from 20th-century classics, Kalabis arrived at a synthetic style of his own, an alternative to the rational compositional techniques – a Neo-Romantic alternative, akin to Neo-Classicism. Besides the first ever album of Kalabis’s complete piano oeuvre (2 CDs, scheduled to be released in 2019), Ivo Kahánek and other leading Czech instrumentalists have recorded the composer’s three sonatas (SU 4210–2). Let's discover more together with Ivo Kahánek in our interview.

Mr. Kahánek, could you tell us when the idea of making an album of Viktor Kalabis’s Sonatas for cello, clarinet and violin came about?
Not surprisingly, the idea of focusing on Kalabis’s music occurred to Zuzana Růžičková, who, up until her husband’s death, was an ardent promoter of his work. Her enthusiasm was contagious. She was the one who kindled my interest and subsequent deep immersion into Kalabis’s music. I would like to add that next year I am scheduled to complete the very first complete recording of Kalabis’s piano works (2 CDs, planned for release in 2019).

You have made the recording of Viktor Kalabis’s Sonatas with the cellist Tomáš Jamník, the clarinettist Anna Paulová and the violinist Jan Fišer. For several years, you have worked with Jamník and Fišer within the Dvořák Trio. Has your being colleagues made the recording process easier?
Yes, it went very smoothly and pleasantly. As a trio, we like accentuating the solo aspects of performances, each of us has pursued his own separate projects, and sometimes only two us play together. When it comes to Anna Paulová, it was actually the very first time I worked with her, and we got along splendidly. Anna is a superb musician, a graduate of the Music Academy in Prague, and as I know all her teachers, the recording sessions proceeded in an almost familial atmosphere.

How was the album’s repertoire compiled?
Professor Růžičková suggested it, and we gladly accepted her proposals. And not only because the works on the album are representative.

How often has Kalabis’s music been performed at concerts?
I would say that his works have been rarely performed worldwide, although a little bit more frequently in the Czech Republic. I think it is good that we strive to promote 20th-century Czech composers’ music at home, yet I must admit that it has not become as established as the music of, for instance, Janáček and Martinů.

How challenging are Kalabis’s works to perform? Those for the piano, as well as for the instruments heard on your new album?
As a pianist, I am not competent to assess how demanding the other instruments’ parts are. Nevertheless, given that we prepared for the recording together, I would say that they are just as difficult as the piano part, which now and then is written in an unexpected manner and generally not taking into consideration the pianist and his/her hands. Kalabis was one of those composers who do not constrain their conceptions by the traditional laws of the piano technique, hence his music is in places extremely difficult to perform.

You have mentioned Zuzana Růžičková, who supported young musicians and liked discussing music with them. Was she present at any of your recording sessions?
Yes, Professor Růžičková was at the first two recording sessions. She voiced very specific, to-the-point remarks, which was truly inspiring and valuable.

Will you perform the pieces featured on your new album at concerts?
Since I have learned the pieces, it is highly likely that I will include them in some of my concerts.

Where did you record the album and who formed the recording team?
The recording sessions took place at the Martinů Hall at the Music Academy in Prague, which is a milieu familiar to all of us. What is more, Kalabis would often go there too, so I can say there was a certain spiritual link with him. The recording team was really great. We were lucky, as it is of great significance in the case of such long-term projects. The recording director was Milan Puklický, the recording engineer was Jan Lžičař.

Could you reveal what are the next recordings you are scheduled to make with Supraphon? Besides the aforementioned 2 CDs of Kalabis’s complete works for solo piano.
In the near future, I will finish a CD with the Bamberger Symphoniker and the conductor Jakub Hrůša. So far, we have recorded Antonín Dvořák’s Quartet for Piano, and we are yet to get around to Bohuslav Martinů’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 (Incantations). Of course, I’ve given plenty of thought to other projects too, but at this juncture I would rather not disclose any details.