Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Karel Husa (7 August 1921 – 14 December 2016)

10:02, 9th January 2017

Czech composer Karel Husa has died aged 95. The news was announced by Cornell University, where he taught for 38 years.

His most famous works included Apotheosis of This Earth and Music for Prague 1968; other acclaimed compositions included his third string quartet, which won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and his cello concerto, for which he received the 1993 Grawemeyer Award.

Born in Prague, Husa studied at Prague Conservatory from 1941 to 1945. A French government scholarship allowed him to continue his studies from 1946 to 1951 at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, where he studied composition with Arthur Honegger and conducting with Jean Fournet.

He continued his compositional training under Nadia Boulanger and conducting with Andre Cluytens, before emigrating to the United States in 1954. He became an American citizen in 1959.

Husa taught at Cornell from 1954 until his retirement in 1992, his students including Steven Stucky, Christopher Rouse and Byron Adams, and also taught at Ithaca College between 1967 and 1986.

Stucky said in 2012 that Husa’s ‘personal passion and the really highly dramatic nature of his music made it approachable even though it was unfamiliar’, adding: ‘I think that was a big step in the reception of modern American music in this country.’

Husa was awarded the Czech Republic’s highest civilian honour in 1995: the State Medal of Merit, First Class.

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