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Music for Prague 1968

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Karel Husa

Karel Husa

General Info

Year: 1968
Duration: c. 22:10
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Associated Music Publishers, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - $150.00   |   Score Only - $30.00


1. Introduction and Fanfare - 5:40
2. Aria - 4:50
3. Interlude - 4:05
4. Toccata and Chorale - 7:10


Full Score
Piccolo (also doubling flute)
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III (each part is divided and requires multiple players)
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra-Alto Clarinet (doubling Baritone Saxophone)
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet (doubling Bass Saxophone )
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone (doubling Contra-Alto Clarinet )
B-flat Bass Saxophone (doubling Contrabass Clarinet )
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
Tuba (multiple players necessary)
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Antique Cymbals (pitched C-E-B)
  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum (preferably 2-3)
  • Suspended Cymbals (3: small, medium and large)
  • Tam-Tam (3: small, medium, large)
  • Tom-Toms (3: small, medium, large)
  • Triangles (3: small, medium, large)
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Music for Prague 1968 was commissioned by the Ithaca College Concert Band. It was premiered by the commissioning ensemble in Washington, D.C., on 31 January 1969, Dr. Kenneth Snapp, conductor, at a concert for the Music Educators National Conference.

- Program Notes by composer

"It is not as beautiful a music as one always would like to hear. But we cannot always paint flowers, we cannot always speak in poetry about beautiful clouds, there are sometimes we would like to express the fight for freedom." -Karel Husa

Husa's Music for Prague 1968 was commissioned by Husa's friend Kenneth Snapp, of the Ithaca Concert Band, the ensemble for which Husa specifically orchestrated the piece. At the time, Czechoslovakia had suffered a terrible invasion by the Soviets, known as the "Prague Spring." Listening to news of the event happening in his homeland, Husa was filled with the need to write a piece to honor the beauty of his native city and express the utter devastation and injury that he felt because of its great suffering. The piece is full of allusions to war, chaos, and destruction, but it also includes the theme of a 15th century Hussite war song; birdcalls, which symbolize fleeting freedom; the use of brass to convey power; and the use of percussion to represent the bells of Prague. Music for Prague 1968 ...has currently been performed more than 8000 times.

- Program Note by the San Francisco Wind Ensemble

In 1968, Czechoslovakia began to experience a relaxing of Communist economic policies and a lifting of restrictions on media, speech and travel. The Soviets denounced this “Prague Spring” and, after several failed attempts at negotiation, sent Eastern Bloc armies to invade the country on the night of Aug. 20. Composer Karel Husa heard about the invasion while on vacation at his summer cottage in upstate New York. The professor of music at Cornell University and Czech expatriate resolved to write a new composition for band that would honor the beauty of his native city, Prague, but also express the tragedy of the occupation. He based his Music for Prague 1968, which has been called one of the most important original compositions for band, entirely on a 15th-century Hussite war song, Ye Warriors of God and His Law, which Husa called “a symbol of resistance and hope for hundreds of years, whenever fate lay heavy on the Czech nation.”

It is the composer’s wish that the following foreword be printed in its entirety in all concert programs of each performance of Music for Prague 1968:

Three main ideas bind the composition together. The first and most important is an old Hussite war song from the 15th century, Ye Warriors of God and His Law, a symbol of resistance and hope for hundreds of years, whenever fate lay heavy on the Czech nation. It has been utilized also by many Czech composers, including Smetana in My Country. The beginning of this religious song is announced very softly in the first movement by the timpani and concludes in a strong unison (Chorale). The song is never used in its entirety.

The second idea is the sound of bells throughout, Prague, named also the City of “Hundreds of Towers,” has used its magnificently sounding church bells as calls of distress as well as of victory. The last idea is a motif of three chords first appearing very softly under the piccolo solo at the beginning of the piece, in flutes, clarinets and horns. Later it reappears at extremely strong dynamic levels, for example, in the middle of the Aria.

Different techniques of composing as well as orchestrating have been used in Music for Prague 1968 and some new sounds explored, such as the percussion section in the Interlude, the ending of the work, etc. Much symbolism also appears: in addition to the distress calls in the first movement (Fanfares), the unbroken hope of the Hussite song, sound of bells, or the tragedy (Aria), there is also the bird call at the beginning (piccolo solo), a symbol of the liberty which the City of Prague has seen only for moments during its thousand years of existence.

— Karel Husa

- Program Note by Andrew Skaggs for the U.S. Navy Band

Music for Prague 1968 was not performed in Czechoslovakia during that country's membership in the Soviet Union. After the Velvet Revolution, begun in 1989, Czechoslovakia returned to a liberal democracy, and the orchestral version of the composition (which was completed after the original wind version) could be premiered by the Zlin Philhamony Orchestra conducted by Milos Machek in 1990. The wind version was not premiered in the Czech Republic (the country's new identity beginning in January 1993) until May 2005, 37 years after its composition, by the Prague Castle Guard/Czech Police Band, conducted by Vaclav Blahunek, within the Prague Spring Music Festival in the Smetana Hall.

Since that time the Prague Castle Guard/Czech Police Band has performed the Prague many times. I should add -- there was a long process of understanding of Husa´s prophecy and lots of symbolism he used in Prague during these past 30 years. However the piece is placed on a pedestal in the CZ nowdays, fortunately.

- Program Note adapted from Vaclav Blahunek correspondence


State Ratings

  • Florida: VI --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • Georgia:
    • VI: Movements I, IV, and one other.
    • Masterwork: Play all
  • Iowa: VI
  • New York:
    • Grade VI: Choose any 2 movements of I, II & IV
  • North Carolina:
    • Grade VI: Play 3 or more movements (Must include movement 4)
    • Masterworks: Play all
  • South Carolina: "Masterwork"
  • Texas: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Oklahoma (Norman) Wind Symphony (Lauren Gates, conductor) - 16 April, 2023
  • Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Dane Heuchemer, conductor) - 16 February 2023
  • Indiana University (Bloomington) Wind Ensemble (Rodney Dorsey, conductor) – 1 November 2022
  • University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Wind Symphony (John R. Stewart, conductor) - 14 October 2022
  • Illinois State University (Normal) Wind Symphony (Anthony C. Marinello, conductor) -- 2 October 2022
  • University of Illinois (Champaign/Urbana) Wind Symphony (Kevin Geraldi, conductor) — 30 September 2022
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 20 July 2022 WASBE Conference (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) Wind Ensemble (Travis J. Cross, conductor) – 25 May 2022
  • University of Maryland (College Park) Wind Orchestra (Christine Higley and Alexander Scott, conductors) - 2 April 2022
  • University of Florida (Gainesville) Wind Symphony (David Waybright, conductor) – 15 February 2022
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 21 November 2021
  • University of South Alabama (Mobile, AL) Wind Ensemble (William Petersen, conductor) - 29 April 2021
  • University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) Wind Ensemble (Evan Feldman, conductor) - 19 February 2020
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) Wind Ensemble (Michael Ketner, conductor) – 23 November 2019
  • Belmont University (Nashville, Tenn.) Wind Ensemble (Barry Kraus, conductor) – 20 November 2019
  • Triangle Wind Ensemble (Cary, N.C.) (Evan Feldman, conductor) – 19 November 2019
  • Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Tx.) Meadows Wind Ensemble (Jack Delaney, conductor) – 15 November 2019
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Concert Band (Kenneth Snapp, conductor) - January 1969 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Adams, Byron. (1987, October). “Karel Husa’s Music for Prague, 1968: An interpretive analysis.” The Instrumentalist 42(3), 19-24.
  • Alber, Brian. (2007, Fall). “The evolution of melodic construction in three 20th-Century wind band works.” Journal of Band Research 43(1), 63–78.
  • Battisti, Frank L. “Karel Husa—Keeping ties with tradition.” The Instrumentalist, July 1990, 44, 11-15, 42.
  • Battisti, Frank L. "Music for Prague, 1968." The Instrumentalist, August/September 2021. 6-11, 27.
  • Casey, Robert Lowell. (1971). “Serial composition in works for the wind band.” Ed.D. dissertation. St. Louis, Mo.: Washington University. University Microfilms International no. 71-27,319.
  • Fullmer, David. (2003). "John Harbison." In: A Composer's Insight, Volume 1. Galesville, Md.: Meredith Music Publications. pp. 71–95.
  • Haithcock, Michael. (1982, April). “Karel Husa talks about composing.” The Instrumentalist 36, 22-25.
  • Hegvik, Arthur. (1975, May). “Karel Husa talks about his life and work.” The Instrumentalist 29, 31-37.
  • McLaurin, Donald. (1985). “The life and works of Karel Husa with emphasis on the significance of his contribution to the wind band.” Ph.D. dissertation. Tallahasse: Florida State University. Abstract: Dissertation Abstracts International 46(4) (October 1985): p. 834-A; University Microfilms International no. 85-13387.
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. (2010). Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 860-869.
  • Montgomery, David. "The Effects of Political and Social Forces on the Life and Music of Karel Husa as Seen in Music for Prague 1968 and Apotheosis of This Earth." NBA Journal, Winter 2021, 34-39.
  • Phillips, Harvey. (1992, September). “Musician from Prague: An Interview with Karel Husa.” The Instrumentalist 47, 28-33.
  • Poquette, J. (2016). Husa’s 'Music For Prague' Listening Guide: Inspired by Hannah Chan-Hartley from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra University of Georgia Hodgson School of Music.
  • Scatterday, Mark D. (1993, January–February) “Karel Husa: Music for Prague, 1968.” BDGuide 7, 42-53. Reprinted in Performance Study Guides of Essential Works for Band, edited by Kenneth L. Neidig. Galesville, Md.: Meredith Music Publications, 2009. pp. 34–43.
  • Vaclav Blahunek, personal correspondence, November 2020