There is more to be said about Karel Husa’s Music for Prague 1968 then there was time for at the recent CKCB concert. The piece represents in musical terms an expression of total anger and rage. These are emotions the full expression of which are generally frowned upon in general society as they often lead to destructive outbursts. Nonetheless, it is socially acceptable to express them through the arts. Among graphic arts one has to look no farther than Picasso’s Guernica, or much of Goya’s output to find powerful examples of outrage. With music we have fewer but still powerful examples. In the 1960s Krzysztof Penderecki gave us some powerful examples. Following the death of Josef Stalin and it became relatively safer to do so, nearly every note of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich is suffused with anguished rage over the suffering of the Russian people. Such music is powerful, but it certainly isn’t pretty in the conventional sense, nor is it intended to be.
It should interest those associated with great music for the wind band to know that Music for Prague 1968 is not Mr. Husa’s only composition of this nature. Two years later he expressed his strong feeling about the earth’s impending environmental/nuclear catastrophe with his Apotheosis of this Earth. This is a three-movement composition in which he depicts the destruction of the planet in the second movement followed by sorrowful postscript. I’ve played the piece and as doing so, sitting in the midst of the second-movement’s tumult, I was thinking that if the world’s leaders could be sitting where I was, they’d soon mend their ways. Once in conversation with Mr. Husa about the piece I commented on his extreme pessimism. He told me that I was overlooking the return of the piccolo bird’s song in the final measures of the postscript movement.