About Viktor Kalabis
Viktor was born in the Bohemian town of Cerveny Kostelec in 1923 and came from a family steeped in musical tradition. His great-grandfather, Tomas Hruska of whom a portrait still exists, was a graduate of the Prague Conservatoire. He died in Prague in September 2006.
At the age of six Viktor was giving public piano performances. Hopes of studying music in Prague were dashed by the Nazi occupation, which forced him to become a factory worker. He, nevertheless, found enough spare time to conduct a choir, play as a pianist in a local trio and commute to Prague where he took lessons in composition with Jaroslav Ridky at the Academy of Music, and in conducting with Pavel Dedecek.
After the war, Viktor completed his studies at the Prague Conservatory (class of prof. Emil Hlobil) and enrolled at the Academy of Music and Charles University (philosophy and musicology). There he passed all the examinations but was denied his doctorate because his thesis on Bartok and Stravinski was not accepted, both being dubbed by the regime as "formalistic and decadent."
Only after the fall of communism in 1990 did he receive his doctorate in a rather poignant ceremony together with many other outstanding personalities in arts and sciences who had shared the same fate.
At the Academy of Music, Viktor met Zuzana Ruzickova. They were married in 1952. They both refused to join the Communist Party and faced many difficulties. Eventually, Viktor got work in the childrens’ music section at Prague Radio. It was in this post that he established the now internationally known "Concertino Praga" competition for young musicians.
He was also composing music, and in 1957 his Concert for violoncello op. 8 was taken up by Manuel Rosenthal and performed to acclaim by the Orchestera de Paris at the Theatre de Champs Elysee. Since then his music has been widely performed. Many of his works were commissioned, for example, by the Czech Philharmony, the Dresden Philharmony, Camerata Zurich, Josef Suk, The Suk Trio, Janos Starker, M. Andre, The Prague Spring Festival and many others.
The Prague Spring of 1968 and the subsequent Russian occupation greatly influenced Viktor’s music. The 3rd Symphony and the Sonata for violoncello were completed in 1970, the year he left Prague Radio to devote himself entirely to his music.
The 1989 "velvet revolution'' saw Viktor being offered many top positions, but he decided to devote himself to his own music and to becoming the President of the Bohuslav Martinu Foundation. Here he established the Bohuslav Martinu Institute for studies and information, launched the Martinu Festival and competition, and created a dynamic base from which Martinu’s work has become far better known.
Viktor suffered various illnesses in his final years, yet continued to maintain his active, sunny and optimistic nature. On his death on 28 September 2006, Dr. Hanser-Strecker, of the Schott´s Söhne Publishing houses in Mainz, commented in a letter: "I am most deeply troubled by this loss of a really great and important composer. He will continue living in his work and in our hearts."