Karel Husa

Karel Husa
Born(1921-08-07)August 7, 1921
DiedDecember 14, 2016(2016-12-14) (aged 95)
Apex, North Carolina, United States
NationalityCzech, American
OccupationClassical composer and conductor
Spouse(s)Simone Perault

Karel Husa (August 7, 1921 – December 14, 2016) was a Czech-born classical composer and conductor, winner of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Music and 1993 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.[1] In 1954, he immigrated to the United States and became an American citizen in 1959.[2]


Husa learned to play the violin and the piano in early childhood. After passing his final examination at high school, he enrolled in the Prague Conservatory in 1941, where he studied with Jaroslav Řídký, and attended courses in conducting led by Metod Doležil and Pavel Dědeček.[3]

After the end of the Second World War, Husa was admitted to the graduate school of the Prague Academy, where he attended courses led by Řídký and graduated in 1947. He then continued composition and conducting studies in Paris. In 1947, he studied with Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger. He studied conducting at the École Normale de Musique de Paris and at the Conservatoire de Paris. His conducting teachers included Jean Fournet, Eugène Bigot and André Cluytens.[4] He subsequently divided his career between composing and conducting.

Husa's String Quartet No. 1 received its premiere in June 1950, and won him international attention, as well as the 1950 Lili Boulanger Award and the 1951 Bilthoven Festival Prize.[4] Other performances in the aftermath of these prizes included the International Society for Contemporary Music in Brussels (1950), festivals in Salzburg (1950), Darmstadt (1951), and the Netherlands (1952) as well as at various concerts in Germany, France, Sweden, England, Switzerland, Australia and the United States. Other compositions written by Karel Husa during his time in Paris include Divertimento for String Orchestra, Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, Évocations de Slovaquie, Musique d'amateurs, Portrait for String Orchestra, First Symphony, First Sonata for Piano, and Second String Quartet. Throughout this period, the composer's underlying preoccupation and interest was style, which was primarily influenced by Vítězslav Novák, Leoš Janáček, Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky.

From 1954 until 1992, Husa was a professor at Cornell University, eventually holding the Kappa Alpha chair in music. Composers who studied with Husa include Steven Stucky, Christopher Rouse, John S. Hilliard, Jerry Amaldev, Christopher Kaufman, David Conte, and Byron Adams. He was also a lecturer at Ithaca College from 1967 to 1986, and served as the first Director of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra from 1977 to 1984.[5] Husa composed Music for Prague 1968, a work in memory of the 1968 Soviet bloc invasion of Czechoslovakia, which became one of his most celebrated compositions. His String Quartet No. 3 won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Husa was the 1993 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity. In 2012, Husa received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Louisville.[1] In his final years, Husa resided in Apex, North Carolina.

Husa and his wife Simone were married for 64 years. The couple had four daughters, Annette, Catherine, Elizabeth and Caroline. His widow and daughters survive him.[5]



Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1974   The Steadfast Tin Soldier for narrator and orchestra after the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen
1976   Monodrama (Portrait of an Artist) commissioned by the Butler University Ballet
1980 Trojské ženy The Trojan Women commissioned by the University of Louisville


Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1944 Předehra pro velký orchestr Overture for Large Orchestra Op.3
1944 Sinfonietta pro komorní orchestr Sinfonietta Op.4; for chamber orchestra
1946–1947 Tři fresky pro orchestr Trois fresques (Three Frescoes) Op.7; for orchestra
1948 Divertimento pro smyčcový orchestr Divertimento
1. Overture
2. Aria
3. Finale
for string orchestra
1952   Musique d'amateurs, Four Easy Pieces for oboe (clarinet or flute), trumpet, and string orchestra with percussion
1953 Portrait pro smyčce Portrait for string orchestra
1953 Symfonie č.1 Symphony No.1  
1955 Čtyři malé kusy pro smyčce Four Little Pieces (Vier kleine Stücke) for string orchestra (or soloists)
1956–1957   Fantaisies
1. Aria
2. Capriccio
3. Nocturne
for orchestra
1960   Mosaïques for orchestra
1963   Fresque for orchestra; revision of No.1 from Trois fresques (1946–1947)
1968 Hudba pro Prahu 1968 Music for Prague 1968 original for symphonic band
1971   Two Sonnets by Michelangelo for orchestra
1979   Pastoral for strings commissioned by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA)
1980   Scenes from The Trojan Women suite from the ballet
1983   Reflections (Symphony No.2)  
1984   Symphonic Suite for orchestra
1986   Concerto for Orchestra  
1990 Předehra "Mládí" Overture "Youth" commissioned by Seattle Youth Symphony
1996   Celebration Fanfare for orchestra
1997   Celebración for orchestra


Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1958 Divertimento pro žesťové a bicí nástroje Divertimento for brass and percussion; expansion of movements from the Eight Czech Duets
1968 Hudba pro Prahu 1968 Music for Prague 1968
1. Introduction and Fanfare
2. Aria
3. Interlude
4. Toccata and Chorale
original version for concert band; also for orchestra
1970 Apoteóza planety země Apotheosis of This Earth
1. Apotheosis
2. Tragedy of Destruction
3. Postscript
original version for concert band; also for chorus and orchestra (1972)
1973 Al Fresco pro koncertní dechový orchestr Al Fresco for concert band
Divertimento pro dechové a bicí nástroje Divertimento for symphonic winds and percussion
1980 Fanfara pro žesťové a bicí nástroje Fanfare for brass and percussion
1980 Intrady an interludia pro sedm trubek a bicí nástroje Intradas and Interludes for Seven Trumpets and Percussion  
1982 Koncert pro dechový ansembl Concerto for (Large) Wind Ensemble winner of the first Sudler International Prize, 1983
1984 Smetanovská fanfara Smetana Fanfare for large wind ensemble
1996   Les Couleurs fauves (Vivid Colors) commissioned by Northwestern University
1996   Midwest Celebration fanfare for 3 brass and percussion ensembles
2006 Gepard Cheetah commissioned by the University of Louisville Wind Symphony


Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1949 Concertino pro klavír a orchestr Concertino for Piano and Orchestra Op.10; also for piano and wind ensemble (1984) or 2 pianos
1959 Poem pro violu a komorní orchestr Poem for viola and chamber orchestra (or piano)
1967 Koncert pro altsaxofon a koncertní dechový orchestr Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Concert Band also for alto saxophone and piano
1961 Elegie a rondo pro altosaxofon a orchestr Elegy and Rondo (Élégie et rondeau) for alto saxophone and orchestra (or piano)
1965   Sérénade for woodwind quintet with string orchestra, xylophone and harp (or wind quintet and piano)
1971   Concerto for Brass Quintet and String Orchestra  
1971 Koncert pro bicí nástroje a dechový soubor Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble  
1973 Koncert pro trubku a koncertní dechový orchestr Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Orchestra also for trumpet and piano
1987 Koncert pro varhany a orchestr Concerto for Organ and Orchestra  
1987 Koncert pro trubku a orchestr Concerto for Trumpet and Symphony Orchestra also for trumpet and piano
1988 Koncert pro violoncello a orchestr Concerto for Cello and Orchestra winner of the 1993 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition
1992 Koncert pro housle a orchestr Concerto for Violin and Orchestra  


Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1943 Smyčcový kvartet "0" String Quartet "0" Op.2
1945 Suita pro violu a klavír Suite for Viola and Piano Op.5
1945 Sonatina pro housle a klavír Sonatina for Violin and Piano Op.6; also for flute and piano
1948 Smyčcový kvartet č.1 String Quartet No. 1 Op.8
1951 Slovenské evokace Évocations de Slovaquie (Evocations of Slovakia) for clarinet, viola and cello
1953 Smyčcový kvartet č.2 String Quartet No. 2  
1963 Serenáda pro dechový kvintet a klavír Serenade for wind quintet and piano
1966   Deux Préludes (Two Preludes) for flute, clarinet and bassoon
1968 Smyčcový kvartet č.3 String Quartet No. 3 winner of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Music
1968 Divertimento pro žesťový kvintet Divertimento for brass quintet and optional percussion;
expansion of movements from the Eight Czech Duets (1955)
1976   Drum Ceremony for 5 percussionists from American Te Deum
1977 Krajinomalby pro žesťový kvintet Landscapes for brass quintet commissioned by Western Brass Quintet
1978 Sonáta pro housle a klavír Sonata for Violin and Piano  
1979 Tři taneční skici pro bicí nástroje Three Dance Sketches for Percussion 4 or more performers
1981 Sonata à tre Sonata à tre for violin, clarinet and piano
1982 Vzpomínky pro dechové kvinteto a klavír Recollections for woodwind quintet and piano
1984 Variace pro housle, violu, violoncello a klavír Variations for piano quartet
1984 Intrada pro žesťový kvintet Intrada for brass quintet
1990 Smyčcový kvartet č.4 String Quartet No.4 "Poems"  
1991   Cayuga Lake (Memories) for string, woodwind and brass quartets, piano and percussion
1992   Tubafest Celebration for tuba quartet
1994   Five Poems for woodwind quintet
1997   Postcard from Home for alto saxophone and piano
2003   "Sonatina" for flute and piano transcription of "Sonatina" for violin and piano, Op. 6
2008   Three Studies for solo clarinet commissioned for 60th anniversary of "Prague Spring Festival" and dedicated to Jiří Hlaváč on his 60th birthday


Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1943 Sonatina Sonatina Op.1; for piano
1952 Sonáta pro klavír č.1 Sonata No.1 Op.11; for piano
1955 Osm českých duet Eight Czech Duets for piano 4-hands
1957 Elegie pro klavír Elegy for piano
1975 Sonáta pro klavír č.2 Sonata No.2 for piano
1986 Fragmenty pro varhany Frammenti (Fragments) for organ solo


Date Czech Title English Title Remarks
1956 Spievanky, dvanáct písní moravských Twelve Moravian Songs for voice and piano
Slavnostní óda pro sbor a orchestr Festive Ode (for an Academic Occasion) for chorus and orchestra (or band, wind ensemble or organ)
1972 Apoteóza planety země pro sbor a symfonický orchestr Apotheosis of This Earth for chorus and orchestra; original version for concert band (1970)
1976 "Čas od času jsou jitra..." pro smíšený sbor a cappella There Are from Time to Time Mornings... for baritone and mixed chorus a cappella;
text from An American Te Deum by Henry David Thoreau
1976 Americké Te Deum pro baryton, smíšený sbor a orchestr An American Te Deum for baritone, chorus and wind ensemble; for baritone, chorus and orchestra (1977);
text compiled by the composer from the writings of Henry David Thoreau,
Ole Edvart Rølvaag, Otokar Březina, folk, traditional and liturgical sources
1981 Tři moravské písně pro smíšený sbor a cappella Three Moravian Songs for mixed chorus a cappella
1981 Každý den pro smíšený sbor a cappella Every Day for mixed chorus a cappella; text by Henry David Thoreau
1982   Cantata for Male Chorus and Brass Quintet text by Edwin Arlington Robinson, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman
2000 Dobrou noc Good Night song for mixed chorus a cappella


  1. ^ a b "Remembering Karel Husa, 1993 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition recipient" (Press release). Grawemeyer Foundation. 16 December 2016. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  2. ^ Susan Elliott (2016-12-16). "Karel Husa Has Died". Musical America. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  3. ^ Karel Husa, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer, Dies at 95 The New York Times By STEVE SMITH; JAN. 4, 2017
  4. ^ a b Hartzell, Lawrence W. (January 1976). "Karel Husa: The Man and the Music". The Musical Quarterly. 62 (1): 87–104. doi:10.1093/mq/lxii.1.87. JSTOR 741602.
  5. ^ a b Daniel Aloi (2016-12-16). "Composer and conductor Karel Husa dies at 95". Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-12-17.

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