Czech-born Karel Husa studied music both in his native Prague and in Paris. He has had a long and distinguished career as a composer and conductor, as well as teaching many years at both Cornell University and Ithaca College. Although perhaps best known for his music for wind ensembles, including the modern classic, Music for Prague 1968, he is also a prolific composer of orchestral and chamber music. He has a long association with the Louisville Orchestra and the University of Louisville School of Music, and composed his ballet The Trojan Women for the opening of the new School of Music building at the University in 1980. In the last decade Music for Prague 1968, Smetana Fanfare, Les Couleurs Fauve, Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble, The Trojan Women and many pieces of Husa's chamber music have been performed at the University of Louisville. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his String Quartet No. 3, and the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1993 for the Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra.
Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra
The Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra was commissioned by the Frank Kerze, Jr. Fund for the University of Southern California School of Music, Daniel Lewis, and the USC Symphony. The work was completed in 1989, and on March 2, 1989, the premiere of four movements of the concerto (the Introduction, Recitative, Remembrance, and Hymn) was given in Pasadena, California, with cellist Lynn Harrell as soloist and the USC Symphony under the baton of Daniel Lewis. In its definite form (with the completed Anecdote), the performance of the concerto took place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on November 16, 1991, by the same performers.
In his original program notes, Husa writes: "As a young student, I played the violin, but when I entered the Prague Conservatory in 1940, I was immediately exposed to the solo violoncello as my teacher, the important Czech composer Jaroslav Ridky, was composing his Second Concerto. There is a great tradition for both composition and solo performance of the cello not only including Dvořák, but composers such as Vorisek, Stamic, Myslivecek, Vranicky, and Kraft—all have written concertos for the instrument.
After the war, I left Prague to pursue studies in Paris and had the chance to hear the French school and its great cellists. Yet, until now, I have written for this five-octave range instrument only in my chamber and orchestral music. It was then a great pleasure to be invited to write a concerto for Lynn Harrell, whom I have admired for a long time.
Because of the rich literature for the instrument, many sonorities, much of the technique, much of the highest ranges have already been explored (especially when we include the harmonic pitches, which can even extend the five-octave range)."
Pastorale for String Orchestra
Pastoral For String Orchestra was commissioned by the American String Teacher's Association for the 1980 ASTA National String Orchestra and first performed at the National Biennial Meeting of the Music Educators nation Conference (MENC) in Miami Beach, Florida, April 20, 1980. Karel Husa was the guest-conductor of the ASTA Orchestra.
The work is of moderate difficulty and the musical material comes from Husa's early work, the Sonatina for Violin and Piano, composed in 1944 when Husa was still a student at the Conservatory of Music in Prague, Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia.
Though the works creative roots and musical materials stem from an earlier period of Husa's life, the composer brings a new, more mature perspective to those materials and to the shape, structural intention and expressive impact of their product.
True to its title, the work displays a lush, open mellowness full of expressive warmth, long breathed melodic lines and beautiful, uncluttered counterpoint. This clear and masterful writing for strings allows the music to unfold and conclude in one long, seamless, expressive arc. Such beautifully spun melodic phrases are underpinned by a lighter harmonic style than found in the other works on this disc, lending the Pastoral for String Orchestra a timeless simplicity and a direct, autumnal expressiveness.
—Pastoral For String Orchestra Note by Douglas Knehans
Scenes from The Trojan Women Suite for Orchestra
The Trojan Women, adapted from the ancient Greek play by Euripides, was commissioned as a part of the opening festivities of the University of Louisville School of Music on the Belknap campus in 1980–81. The premiere performance was presented by the University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra and the Louisville Ballet on March 28, 1981 in the North Recital Hall. The orchestra was directed by the composer and the ballet was choreographed by Alun Jones featuring Helen Starr as Hecuba, Kurt Putzig as Talthybius, Lauren Cookson as Cassandra, Martha Connerton as Andromache, and Hannah Jones as Astyanax. Subsequently, in April of that same year, The Trojan Women was presented as part of the Louisville Ballet subscription season, this time with the Louisville Orchestra under the baton of Akira Endo. In addition, Maestro Endo and the Louisville Orchestra recorded The Trojan Women for the Louisville Orchestra First Edition Label.
The story of The Trojan Women is not a pleasant one. The city of Troy has been utterly ravaged by the Athenians. Poseidon laments his smoldering city. Hecuba, Queen of Melos, mourns her city and the death of her son Hector. All the men of Troy are dead, except for Astyanax, the son of Andromache, daughter-in-law of Hecuba. The soldiers warn Andromache that like all the men of Troy, her son must die. The women try to protect the boy, but finally the soldiers succeed in killing him. The body of Astyanax is given to Hecuba who rocks him and sings a lullaby to him that recalls the beauty of earlier times. The body is then taken and buried. Alone, Hecuba laments with even more despair. Finally, totally defeated, yet still strong of character, the women accept that all that they have known is gone and they are lead away to a life of slavery.
The music of The Trojan Women was inspired by Husa's memories of the destruction of a Czech village. He uses stark modalities, tetrachords and quartertones to evoke the ancient horror of Troy and connect it to the modern horror he witnessed in his native country. This music makes an incredibly artistic statement on human bondage, suffering and the resilience of human nobility. This speaks to the influence of Husa's deep sense of involvement with his fellow beings, and further supports Dr. Anthony Iannaccone's conclusion to his article on Karel Husa in Cross Currents:
"Like most great music, it transcends the ubiquitous labels of conservative and progressive. It is simply the imaginative creation of a major artist who speaks cogently and eloquently to his time and beyond."
The University Symphony Orchestra
The University Symphony Orchestra is the premiere orchestral ensemble at the University of Louisville, performing a great variety of orchestral literature from standard repertoire to music of the 21st century. Primarily composed of music majors (undergraduate and graduate), the USO is open, by audition, to any UofL student. Each year, the USO presents no less than six concerts, including the highly popular Halloween Spooktacular and the New Music Festival concert, which has included music by guest composers such as Karel Husa, John Corigliano and Michael Colgrass, as well as world premieres by faculty and student composers. The USO also performs at least one concert per semester of purely orchestral works. Recent program repertoire has included Elgar's Enigma Variations, Franck's Symphony in D Minor, Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5. In addition to its own performance schedule, the USO regularly joins the University of Louisville Dance Academy in performance of "Clara's Dream" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite and the University of Louisville Opera Theatre for a fully staged production. Recent operas include The Mikado, The Tender Land, A Beggar's Opera, and Le Nozze di Figaro.
Kimcherie Lloyd is currently the Director of Orchestral Studies and Opera Theatre at the University of Louisville School of Music. In addition to orchestra and opera theatre, Ms. Lloyd teaches a graduate seminar in conducting and individual conducting lessons. Ms. Lloyd holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in piano performance from Eastern Michigan University, a Master's degree in orchestral/opera conducting from Louisiana State University. In addition to her studies in the United States, Ms. Lloyd studied conducting with Julius Kalmar at the Conservatorium in Vienna, Austria.
Having worked professionally, Ms. Lloyd served as Director of Music with Kentucky Opera where she was the Music Director for the Rudd Young Artist Program and Assistant Conductor/Chorusmaster for the mainstage productions (1999–2007). Past affiliations include The Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Baton Rouge Opera, and Ann Arbor Chamber Orchestra. In addition, Ms. Lloyd has served as guest conductor with the Louisville Orchestra and Louisville Youth Orchestra, Music Director of Music Theatre Louisville and Artistic Director of Voices of Kentuckiana, as well as the Director of the UofL Kentuckiana Music Institute Orchestra.
Recently hailed by The New York Times for his "warm-toned" performance of Lutosławski's Grave (Metamorphoses), Paul York has appeared in recital and with orchestras in the U.S. and abroad. Mr. York serves on the string faculty at the University of Louisville, where he maintains an active teaching and performing schedule. Recent solo appearances include a performance of Karel Husa's Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Colored Field for Cello and Orchestra by Aaron Kernis with the Louisville Orchestra and Vivaldi's Double Concerto in G Minor with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In 2006 he was invited to perform recitals throughout Japan. Of his performance in Carnegie Hall, New York Concert Review stated "the fiendishly difficult solo part was brilliantly played by cellist Paul York … one had to be in awe of his playing." Mr. York has participated in numerous summer festivals. He is currently a member of the artist faculty at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival,
where he performs solo and chamber works, in addition to his teaching schedule. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Mr. York was selected to participate in the prestigious Piatigorsky Seminar at the University of South California where he received his bachelor's degree. He received his master of music degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he studied with Ronald Leonard. Other teachers include Gabor Rejto and Louis Potter. Mr. York has recorded for the Centaur, Arizona University Press, Ablaze, and CRS labels.