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Music for Prague 1968

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Karel Husa

Karel Husa

General Info

Year: 1968
Duration: c. 22:00
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 - 5:45
2. Aria - 4:40
3. Interlude - 4:10
4. Toccata and Chorale - 7:15


Full Score
Piccolo (also doubles flute)
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
Eb Soprano Clarinet
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III (each part is divided and requires multiple players)
Eb Alto Clarinet
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Contra-Alto Clarinet (doubles the Baritone Sax part)
Bb Contrabass Clarinet (doubles the Bass Saxophone part)
Alto Saxophone I-II
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone (doubles the Contra-Alto Clarinet part)
Bb Bass Saxophone (doubles the Contrabass Clarinet part)
Trumpet (in Bb) 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
  • Cymbals (1 crash and 3 suspended: small, medium, and large)
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum (preferably 2-3)
  • Tam-Tam (3: small, medium, large)
  • Timpani
  • Tom-Toms (3: small, medium, large)
  • Triangles (3: small, medium, large)
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

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 Karel Husa

"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

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

  • Florida: VI --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • 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 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
  • McGill University (Montreal, Que.) Wind Orchestra (Charles-Éric Fontaine, conductor) – 1 November 2019
  • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.) Peabody Wind Ensemble (Harland D. Parker, conductor) – 25 October 2019
  • University of Missouri, Kansas City, Wind Ensemble (Joseph Parisi, conductor) – 18 September 2019
  • Pacific Lutheran University (Parkland, Wash.) Wind Ensemble (Edwin Powell, conductor) – 12 May 2019
  • University of Missouri (Columbia) Wind Ensemble (Brian Silvey, conductor) – 26 April 2019
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Wind Ensemble (Christopher Hughes, conductor) – 25 April 2019
  • William Mason High School (Mason, Ohio) Wind Symphony (Edward Protzman, conductor) Music for All National Concert Band Festival - 14 March 2019
  • West Chester (Penn.) University Wind Ensemble (Andrew Yozviak, conductor) – 21 February 2019 (CBDNA 2019 National Conference, Tempe, Ariz.)
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Wind Ensemble (Christopher Hughes, conductor) – 13 December 2018
  • University of the Pacific (Stockton, Calif.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Eric Hammer, conductor) – 5 December 2018
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Crane Wind Ensemble (Brian K. Doyle, conductor) – 19 November 2018
  • Texas A&M University (College Station) Wind Symphony (Timothy Rhea, conductor) – 18 November 2018
  • Cleveland Winds (Cleveland, Ohio) (Birch Browning, conductor) – 11 November 2018
  • Denison University (Granville, Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Chris David Westover, conductor) – 10 November 2018
  • Ohio State University (Columbus) Wind Symphony (Russel C. Mikkelson, conductor) – 1 November 2018

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. (1990, July). “Karel Husa—Keeping ties with tradition.” The Instrumentalist 44, 11-15, 42.
  • 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.
  • 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