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Music for Prague 1968

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Karel Husa

Karel Husa

General Info

Year: 1968
Duration: c. 18:30
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 - 5:40
2. Aria - 4:38
3. Interlude - 4:00
4. Toccata and Chorale - 7:00


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


Included in the article: 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.

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.

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 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 song 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), symbol of liberty which the City of Prague has seen only for a few moments during its thousand years of existence.*

-Program Notes by Karel Husa

*It is the composer's wish that the preceding note be printed in its entirety in all concert programs or read to the audience before each performance of the work.

"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 include 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

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
  • South Carolina: "Masterwork"
  • Texas: V

Recent Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • San Francisco Wind Ensemble (Martin H. Seggelke, conductor) - 8 February 2014
  • Chicago College of Performing Arts Wind Ensemble (Stephen E. Squires, conductor) - 30 October 2013
  • Texas Tech University Symphonic Band - May 2013
  • California State University Long Beach Wind Symphony (John Alan Carnahan, conductor) - 29 November 2012
  • Knightwind Ensemble [Milwaukee, Wisc.] (Erik Janners, conductor) - 20 November 2011

Works for Winds by this Composer

Additional Resources

  • 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, compiler and editor. (1997). Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 420–428.
  • Phillips, Harvey. (1992, September). “Musician from Prague: An Interview with Karel Husa.” The Instrumentalist 47, 28-33.
  • 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.