Petr Eben (22 January 1929 – 24 October 2007) was a composer from the Czech Republic.
Born in Žamberk in northeastern Bohemia, Eben spent his youth in Český Krumlov in southern Bohemia. There he studied piano, and later cello and organ. The years of German occupation and World War II were especially difficult for him. Although Eben was raised as a Catholic, his father was a Jew and in 1943 Eben was expelled from school and interned by the Nazis in Buchenwald for the duration of the war.
After the war he was admitted to the Prague Academy for Music where he studied piano with František Rauch and composition with Pavel Bořkovec. Beginning in 1955 Eben taught for many years in the music history department at Charles University in Prague.
In 1955 he was appointed to the staff of the Music Department of the University of Prague. From 1978-1979 he was professor of composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. In 1990 he became professor of composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and President of the Prague Spring Festival. He is well-known for his improvisations on the piano and organ, but composition remained his main area of interest.
Eben was a productive composer of music in several genres. Among his most important commissions were the oratorio Apologia Socratus, the ballet Curse and Benediction (Kletby a dobroreceni), written for the Holland Festival 1983, the orchestral works Hours of the Night (Noční hodiny) and Prague Nocturne (Pražské nokturno), for the Vienna Philharmonic, the Organ Concerto No. 2 for the dedication of the new organ for Radio Vienna, the mass Missa cum populo for the Avignon Festival, the oratorio Holy Symbol (Posvátná znamení) for Salzburg Cathedral, and the Church Opera Jeremiah. He has also written organ music, and some enchanting children’s songs such as Sníh, a song about snow which won an award for Best Children's Choir Song in Illinois.
The Norwegian organist Halgeir Schiager has recorded five CDs of Petr Eben's organ music on Hyperion Records.
The German organist Gunther Rost has recorded 6 discs of Petr Eben's organ music on label Motette The interpretation recorded on this CD-SACD series was largely influenced by the composer's personal suggestions and comments. The series compiles all of Eben's works for solo organ which have been published to this date, played by Gunther Rost on various contemporary instruments. The speaker in both cycles, Job (vol. I) and The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (vol. V, which will be published in 2006), is the late Gert Westphal, one of Germany's most important contemporary reciters.
List of selected compositions
- Missa adventus et quadragesimae, 1952
- Organ Concerto No. 1, 1954
- Sunday Music, organ, 1957-59
- Hořká hlína (Bitter Earth), cantata, 1959-60
- Piano Concerto, 1960-61
- "Laudes", organ, 1964
- Ordinarium missae, 1966
- Apologia Socratus, oratorio, 1967
- Truvérská mše (Trouvere Mass), 1968-69
- Vox clamantis, 1969
- "Ten Preludes on Chorales of the Bohemian Brethren", organ, 1971-73
- Pragensia, cantata, 1972
- Noční hodiny (Hours of the Night), sinfonia, 1975
- Faust, incidental music, 1976
- Hamlet, incidental music, 1976-77
- Pocta Karlu IV., cantata, 1978
- "Mutationes", organ, 1980
- Rorate coeli, Fantasy for viola and organ, 1982
- Missa cum populo, 1982
- Kletby a dobrořečení (Curses and Blessings), ballet, 1983
- Hommage à Dietrich Buxtehude, organ, 1987
- Job, organ, 1987
- "A Festive Voluntary: Variations on Good King Wenceslas", organ, 1987
- Organ Concerto No. 2, 1988
- Prague Te Deum, 1989 (for mixed choir, 4 brass instruments, timpani and percussion or organ)
- "Biblical Dances", organ, 1990-91
- Posvátná znamení (Sacred Symbols), oratorio, 1992-93
- Proprium festivum monasteriense, hymn, 1993
- "Amen — es werde wahr: Choralphantasie für Orgel", organ, 1994
- "Momenti d'organo", organ, 1994
- Hommage à Henry Purcell, organ, 1994-95
- Jeremiah, opera, 1996-97
- "Campanae gloriosae", organ, 1999
- K. Vondrovicova, Petr Eben, Prague 1993