Karel Husa

From Wind Repertory Project
Karel Husa


Karel Husa (7 August 1921 in Prague - 14 December 2016, Apex, N.C.) was a Czech-American composer.

Husa's father was in the shoe business, and Karel's family had hoped he would pursue a career in engineering. It was only at the urging of his mother that he added the study of violin and piano to his engineering courses.

With the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the engineering school he attended was closed, and he attempted unsuccessfully to enroll in an art school as a painter. His technical background eliminated him from all but the Prague Conservatory, where he secured the only opening in the composition department. Prior to this time, he had had no formal music training with the exception of his early violin and piano lessons. At the conservatory, he studied with Czech composer Jaroslav Ridky.

Following World War II, Husa completed his studies through the equivalent of a master's degree and left Prague to attend the Ecole Normale de Paris. There he studied composition with Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger, and studied conducting with Jean Fournet and Andre Cluytens. The Academy of Musical Arts in Prague accepted the studies he had done in Paris and awarded him a Doctorate of Music in 1947.

After receiving his doctoral degree, Husa remained in Paris, composing and conducting concerts not only in Paris but throughout Europe. By 1954, the amount of time he could devote to composing was seriously limited because of his many guest-conducting engagements. At the suggestion of his friend Elliott Galkin, Cornell University offered him a faculty position that would give him the opportunity to conduct its orchestra for one year and teach theory for three years. He accepted, and in 1959, he and his family became American citizens. Husa was Kappa Alpha Professor until his retirement in 1992.

He was elected Associate Member of the Royal Belgian Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974 and received honorary degrees from several institutions, including Coe College, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Ithaca College, and Baldwin Wallace College. Among numerous honors, Husa has received a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, UNESCO, and the National Endowment for the Arts, Koussevitzky Foundation commissions, the Czech Academy for the Arts and Sciences Prize, the Czech Medal of Merit, First Class, from President Vaclav Havel, and the Lili Boulanger award. His music is published by Associated Music Publishers.

Husa's works for band include Music for Prague 1968, which in its orchestral and band versions has been widely performed. Based on the 15th century Czech chorale, Ye Warriors of God and His Law, it is in effect a lamentation of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in August, 1968.

In addition to music for band and orchestra, Husa wrote for chorus, voice, piano, and chamber ensembles. He was the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1969. He was described by Elliott Galkin in the Baltimore Sun as "...one of the most interestingly human and humane musical minds in this century's recent history."

Works for Winds