Viktor Kalabis (1923–2006) was a Czech composer.
Born in Červený Kostelec, a town in the Czechia, on February 27, 1923, Kalabis was an important 20th century Czech composer. Viktor was interested in music from a young age, but due to the Nazi occupation of Prague during the Second World War, he was unable to study music in Prague. After the end of the war, Kalabis studied at the Prague Conservatory and at the Academy of Music and Charles University. In 1952, Kalabis married Zuzana Růžičková, who became a famous harpsichord player. They both refused to join the Communist party, making the beginning of their music careers difficult. Eventually, Viktor got work in the children's music section at Prague Radio. It was in this post that he established the now internationally known Concertino Praga competition for young musicians.
He truly established himself as an international composer when in 1957, Manuel Rosenthal performed Kalabis' Concert for violoncello op. 8 at the Orchestera de Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Many of his works were commissioned, for example, by the Czech Philharmony, the Dresden Philharmony, Camerata Zurich, Josef Suk, The Suk Trio, János Starker, Maurice André, The Prague Spring Festival and many others. His composition Sinfonia pacis is one of the world's most-played Czech contemporary music compositions.
Although most of the works of Viktor Kalabis are symphonic, concertante or chamber compositions, his vocal works such as the cantata Canticum Canticorum, the chamber cantata Vojna (The War), song cycles and choruses are of a similar high standard. For stage he was written the Fable for chamber orchestra and the two-part ballet score Two Worlds, inspired by Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The video recording of this ballet was given the "Parents' Choice Award" of 1993 in the United States. In 1967, he received the Prize of the Czechoslovak Music Critics and in 1969 he was awarded the State Prize.
In an interview with Ales Brezina, a close friend of Kalabis, he described Viktor's musical influence.
"I would place his music not only in the Czech context but also in the European one, because he was a well educated man who spoke several languages fluently and was interested in everything that happened – also in philosophy and other things. And I would say that his music started where the masters of neo-classicism stopped. His beginnings in the fifties and in the early sixties were deeply influenced by people like Stravinsky and Hindemith, and Honegger and Bartók – and Martinů of course."
Eventually, Kalabis became President of the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation. Here he established the Bohuslav Martinů Institute for studies and information, launched the Martinů Festival and competition, and created a dynamic base from which Bohuslav Martinů's work has become far better known.
Kalabis died on September 28, 2006. The Viktor Kalabis & Zuzana Růžičková Foundation was established in his memory. Růžičková is the President of the Board of Directors for the Foundation and is dedicated to promoting Kalabis' music throughout the world.
Classical music editor, Rob Barnett, describes a number of Kalabis's compositions:
"The Harpsichord Concerto is dedicated to the composer's wife whose eminent recordings of the Poulenc and Martinů concertos have for years been staples of first the LP catalogue and latterly the CD. Kalabis's concerto is in three movements. The outer ones have the notes rushing in pealing relentlessly Gothic torrents with the instrument probably recorded with much more prominence than you would hear in the concert hall."
"The Violin Concerto starts with awesome spleen but rapidly establishes itself in Olympian realms. This is a contemplative kingdom half way between Bax and Rawsthorne. This continues through the middle movement. The allegro vivace is almost Walton – almost Frankel. The concerto is dedicated to the memory of Hana Webrová-Hlavsová who died under tragic circumstances in 1960. This work has some superbly lyrical Mediterranean sunset writing – especially in the finale. Quite a discovery, I should say."
"The Largo is the oldest recording in this anthology – not that it sounds deficient. It is tough going – not specially dissonant but certainly bleak. The music retains long lines but it is, overall, a rather fatalistic piece with little to hold the hope of rising from the gloom. The notewriter suggests that its negative charge reflected life in a totalitarian society. Impressive if not endearing is the writing for the horns of the Czech Philharmonic, the orchestra who commissioned the piece."
Other works of note
The Viktor Kalabis and Zuzana Růžičková Foundation has the following list of musical compositions.
- Symphony No. 1
- Symphony No. 2 "Sinfonia pacis"
- Symphony No. 3 (1970–71)
- Symphony No. 4 (1972)
- Symphony No. 5 (1976)
- Suita for orchestra "Festival of Straznice"
- Symphonic Variations
- Concerto for large orchestra
- Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 1
- Concerto for piano and wind instruments No. 2
- Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 1
- Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2
- Concerto for harpsichord and string orchestra
- Fantasia Concertante for viola and string orchestra
- Concerto for violoncello and orchestra
- Concerto for trumpet and orchestra ("Le Tambour de Villevielle")
- Concerto for bassoon and wind instruments
Compositions for chamber orchestra
- Diptych for string orchestra
- Chamber Music for String
- Concerto for Chamber Orchestra "Hommage a Stravinskij"
- String Quartet No. 1
- String Quartet No. 2
- String Quartet No. 3
- String Quartet No. 4
- String Quartet No. 5 "In Memory of M. Chagall"
- String Quartet No. 6 "In Memory of B. Martinu"
- String Quartet No. 7
- Ludus for piano quartet op. 82 (1996)
- Classical Nonet
- Nonet "Homage to Nature"
Compositions for wind instruments
- Septet "Strange Pipers"
- Octet "Spring Whistles" (1979)
- Divertimento for Wind Quintet
- Small Chamber Music for wind quintet
Duos with piano
- Sonata for violin and piano
- Hallelujah for violin and piano
- Sonata for viola and piano
- Sonata for cello and piano
- Sonata for clarinet and piano
- Suite for clarinet and piano
- Suite ("Bagpiper's") for oboe and piano
- Fantasie for oboe and piano
- Variations for French horn and piano
- Sonata for trombone and piano
Duos with harpsichord
- Sonata for violin and harpsichord
- Dialogues for violoncello and harpsichord
- "Four Pictures" for flute and harpsichord
Duos for other instrumentation
- Duettina for violin and cello
- Duettina for cello and double bass
- 3 Impressions for two clarinets
- Small Suite for two bassoons
- Couples for two flutes
- Compositions for solo instruments
- Accents (Expressive studies for piano)
- Entrata, Aria e Toccata for piano,
- 3 Polkas for piano
- 4 Enigmas for Graham
- 2 Toccatas for piano
- Allegro impetuoso for piano
- I. Sonata
- II. Sonata
- III. Sonata
- 6 Two-Voices Canonic Inventions
- Preludio, Aria e Toccata, "I casi di Sisyphos"
- 3 Monologues for cello solo
- Rondo Drammatico for cello solo
- 3 Pieces for flute
- "Tempting" for flute
- Invocation for French horn solo
- Symphonic Fresco for organ, "Afresco sinfonico"
- "Canticum canticorum" for mixed choir, chamber orchestra, alto, tenor
- "The War" for mixed choir, flute, and piano on folk poetry
Songs with orchestral accompaniment
- 5 Romantic Love Songs to words by R.M. Rilke
- "Bird's Weddings" for higher voice and piano
- "Carousel of Life" for lower voice and piano to words by R.M. Rilke
- "Dawn", "Autumn", 2 choirs to words by Vl. Sefl
- Children Songs (with piano accompaniment)
- Album of Folksongs (with piano)
- 4 Songs for Little Children (with piano)
- We Sing a Song (with flute and oboe)
- Three Children Choirs (with piano)
- ^ Bohuslav Martinu Foundation website,  Board of Directors biographies, 2004.
- ^ Czech Music Information Center, brochure, 1998.
- ^ Ales Brenzina in Radio Praha interview. David Vaughan, "Viktor Kalabis – a well-tempered composer with a dramatic musical voice", Oct. 2006.
- ^ Barnett, Rob. Music Web International, "Viktor Kalabis." World Wide Web 
- ^ The Viktor Kalabis and Zuzana Růžičková Foundation