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
Mr. Kahánek, could you tell us when the idea of making an album of
Viktor Kalabis’s Sonatas for cello, clarinet and violin came
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
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
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
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
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
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
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