BBC Music Magazine Review
of the new Warner Music/ERATO remastered complete J. S. Bach keyboard works
  – December 19, 2016


Read special interview with Zuzana in The Times (London) October 2016 and Le Monde (Paris) December 2016. And, if you read Czech, then Harmonie magazine, December 2016. “The Sprit of Bach & The Miraculous Life of Zuzana Ruzickova” –  BBC Magazine, December 19, 2016.

FANFARE January/February 2014


Doyenne of the Harpsichord


For a Fanfare feature (March/April 2011) on the music of the Czech composer Viktor Kalabis (1923–2006), I had a background conversation with his widow, the harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková (it’s not as difficult as it looks: Roo-zheetsh-ko-va). That discussion was occasioned by the appearance of the complete Kalabis string quartets on Praga Digitals (PRD250262) and an anthology of orchestral and chamber music on MSR, derived from Supraphon originals (MS1350). Now, with the reissue of several of her own recordings on Supraphon and the release of a three-CD box, also from Supraphon, of Kalabis orchestral music, it’s time for a talk with Růžičková herself. I hadn’t interviewed her directly in 2011 because I had been warned that she was seriously ill, as was instantly clear from her tone on the telephone; I expected bad news before long. Now she responded to my first words with surprising frankness.

Q: When we spoke two years ago, you warned me that you were very ill. But these days you sound buoyant and full of life.

A: I’m now in remission. I have a film crew here, doing a documentary on my life. It will be in the States; they are going to do a trailer and then they will see what will happen to it. It’s mostly about my Holocaust period. See the full interview at FANFARE .   Fanfare magazine has also published an extensive series of reviews of the works by Viktor Kalabis and recordings by Zuzana Ruzickova.

GRAMOPHONE Magazine, Critics Choice, December 2013

Guy Rickards writes: Concertos have dominated my listening this year – whether by McCabe (Dutton) , Halmboe (Dascarpo) or Hindemith (Frank Peter Zimmerman on Myrios), but it’s an archival collection of concertos – for violin, piano, trumpet, harpsichord and bassoon – and symphonies by Viktor Kalabis that has impressed the most and it is in my CD player as I type this!
Gramaphone Magazine December 2013

Viktor Kalabis, Czech Master

by Martin Anderson
Fanfare magazine
“Only a small part of the capacious output of the Czech composer Viktor Kalabis – some 92 works, including five symphonies and nine concertos – ever made it onto LP and less yet made the transition to CD. But with the recent appearance of Kalabis’s seven string quartets on the Praga Digital label and now a three-CD set of orchestral and instrumental works on MSR Classics (see Recordings), we seem to have gone from famine to feast.”


Zuzana Ruzickova 85th Birthday Celebration at HAMU

Review published by the Dvorak Society

Zuzana Růžičková is world famous as a harpsichordist, with many prizes, honours and hundreds of recordings to her credit – not least the complete works of Bach on disc which she values most.  She is well-known to and loved by many of our members.  An important jubilee – her remarkable 85th.birthday – fell on 14th.January this year.  Last year, on 27th.July, she received the Charles IV Cultural Prize in Aachen, Germany, an honour which is only bestowed on the most important personalities.  At the ceremony she made a memorable speech in which she spoke of her life but primarily of her close affinity to Bach.

Viktor Kalabis

Rob Barnett, Classical Editor, MusicWeb International, reviews CDs of the music by Viktor Kalabis – read more.
And still more from Supraphon – MSR – Arco Diva

Also please read the moving obituary of Viktor Kalabis published by the Dvorak Society. 


Posted by Phil Muse in Symphony, chamber music, MSR

Music of Viktor Kalabis – Zuzana Růžičková, piano & harpsichord;
Josef Suk, violin; The Suk Trio; Vlach String Quartet; Prague Chamber Soloists; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, Zdeněk Košler, Václav Neumann, and Karel Šejna.

Czech composer Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006) was an unknown name to me when this 3-CD jewel box arrived in the mail. As I began scanning the Internet for basic research in writing this review, I was astonished to find that only two Kalabis works were listed on, both buried in recordings of works by other composers. My wonder increased as I actually began listening to the composer’s music. Here was a distinctive, major voice of the 20th century, one who by rights should have a place in modern music near to Bartók or Kodály, two older contemporaries whom he admired, or Stravinsky, of whom he wrote a thesis. (I will leave it to others more qualified than I, and to time, which reveals all things, to determine the exact niche.) Why had I never encountered this striking figure before, in concert or on record?


Audiophile Audition

A royal feast of music from one of the most important Czech composers of the second half of the twentieth century. Published on October 09, 2010

Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006) was born in eastern Bohemia; an only child, he was a talented pianist, later singing in a choir and playing in a jazz group. After the Nazi invasion he was allowed to teach, excused military service due to his poor eyesight, and resumed his studies fully in 1945. His doctorate thesis on Stravinsky and Bartok was rejected as the communists in power from 1948 who considered these composers “decadent bourgeois formalists”. He waited until 1990 to receive his doctorate at a ceremony organized by Václav Havel to reward many such people denied their academic qualifications by the communists.

Supraphon Records

Supraphon“Composer Viktor Kalabis, who turned eighty on 27th February, 2003, ranks among prominent Czech composers of our time. His compositional style is highly distinctive, indeed unmistakeable. In a way that is entirely his own, he has been linking up with the legacies left behind by the epoch-making masters of 20th-century music. In his progress along this road, he has produced works marked by respect for compositional order, wealth of harmony, and inventive melodic devices. His output has comprised over 90 opuses encompassing a wide variety of genres. Kalabis´s music furnishes an eloquent testimony to the spiritual conflicts of the 20th century, never losing its distinct humanitarian message, blending elements of pathos with a sense of tender emotionality and intimacy, admiration for the family of man and for nature, meditative introspection, and spontaneous joy. In his formative years, Viktor Kalabis combined studies of composition and conducting, demonstrating his skill in that latter field on this CD as well. His works were interpreted here by a distinguished cast of soloists and ensembles. This portrait of composer Viktor Kalabis offers a chance of insight into the labyrinth of paths followed by 20th-century music. Viktor Kalabis: a composer´s message on the spiritual and artistic conflicts of the 20th century.”

Karl van Eycken
Karl van Eycken in his extensive biography published in Movement Janacek monthly, No. 54 July 2007 (Paris)

“Kalabis left us a masterful oeuvre. We count him among the great ones of the second half of the 20th century. His musical universe combines both necessary elements, i.e., an artistic sense developed to rare heights coupled with a completely professional mastery. With great strength of expression he reflects both the joys and the convulsions of our times together with a clearly humanist message, never falling into the trap of facility or superficiality. I avow that I deeply love Kalabis’s music and hope that more and more people will discover it.”

Jindřichův Hradec Honors Viktor Kalabis – Special exhibition celebrates a composer who spent much of his childhood in this southern Bohemia town and who, together with Zuzana, was to spend many happy and inspirational summers here in recent decades.

REVIEW: CDMusic.CS in Prague

“….Recording by Zuzana Ruzickova, a world-acclaimed harpsichordist inseparably associated with J. S. Bachďs music, here introducing 20th century compositions, with which she reaped success during her tour of Japan in 1997. Comprising a number of world premieres, the recording was made in January 1998 on a modern instrument designed to match the character of the works.”

REVIEW: Stamford Symphony Performance (Symphony No. 3)

“The pair of concerts that concluded the Stamford Symphony’s season last weekend at the Palace Theatre were far more than musical expression of highest attainment.

They made an eloquent statement about human experience, its moments of pain, trials and non-resolutions, about Kosovo and the killings in Colorado, about the fundamental brotherhood of all mankind.

The focal point was the American premiere of music by Viktor Kalabis, probably unknown to almost everyone in the audience. It was his third symphony, written in the early 1970s to protest Communist suppression in Czechoslovakia.

A political statement? No way! It was a poignant express of human suffering by a first-class composer who possibly created one of the most moving works of our time. If you were there, you might understand that this is not hyperbole… ”

(2 May 1999 By John S. Sweeny/The Advocate and Greenwich Time)

FEATURE: “Zuzana Ruzickova, Grande Dame of the Harpsichord,” full article
(Translated by Rolf Liebergesell)

“Sirens, police every where, masses of agitated people course through the narrow streets of the inner city. Mass protests against the communist regime. Suddenly the rumor: “Tanks are coming.” The words fly from mouth to mouth. Will history repeat itself? Will the cry for freedom and democracy be brutally suppressed as in the 1968 “Prague Spring”? Uncertainty, fear and tension hover over the city.

No, not over the whole city. In the center of Prague there is an oasis of quiet: a small recording studio. Here, the harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova records the six Brandenberg Concertos by J.S. Bach. Music lovers have waited for this recording a long time. Zuzana Ruzickova does not want to disappoint them….”

(August 1998 By Deborah Cowley/German Readers Digest)

REVIEW: “Chamber Group’s History Lessons” (Concerto for Harpischord and Strings), full article

“…The second capsule survey involved the harpsichord concerto in baroque and modern terms. Zuzana Ruzickova was the twice-featured soloist, and her facility at the keyboard during Bach’s D Minor Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1052, impressed not so much in the first movement cadenza as in the finale’s accelerated running fingers. The Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (1975) by Viktor Kalabis received its American premiere, and couldn’t have been entrusted to better hands…”

(1 February 1994 By Charles McCardell/Washington Post)

REVIEW: Op. 21, Chamber Music for Strings

“…is a most interesting work… one feels oneself in the presence of a musician who has ideas to communicate, says them in an unequivocal way… a work of substance which unfailingly keeps holding you in its spell.”

(Gilles Votvin, La Presse, 9 October 1967)

REVIEW: Op. 25, Concerto for Orchestra

“Kalabis is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding Czech composers of the second half of our century, and the Concerto proves it to perfection. . . It is a work full of dynamism and personality, which draws the audience into its world and never allows even a moment of inattention. Isn’t this fact in itself proof of the value of Kalabis’s music?”

(Luldvik Kasparek, Hudebni rozhledy, no. 5, 1999)

REVIEW: Op. 26, Accents for Piano

“… rhythms of unheard-of energy, magic sound, strongly polarized dynamics in the shortest possible time segment, all this did help me — the then (1997) shy youngster 14 years old — to liberate my feelings in a previously unknown way. Seldom now did I take recourse to Mozart or Mendelssohn. . . Kalabis’s music opened up a new world for me.”

From a booklet text to a newly-released CD by German pianist Gerhard Vielhaber
(Franck, Schumann, Kalabis, on Classic clips)

REVIEW: Op. 33, Symphony No. 3

“… a poignant expression of human suffering by a first-class composer who possibly has created one of the most moving works of our time. If you were there, you might understand that this is not a hyperbole. . . one listened with tears in the eyes. How many contemporary works can produce this emotion?”

(John Sweeney, The Advocate and Greenwich Time (Connecticut), 2 May 1999)

REVIEW: Op. 34, Symphony No. 4

“This masterly work is so sufficient in its absolute perfection, with enormous potential both of music and philosophy. It bears witness to Kalabis’s ever-developing creativity…”

(Jaromir Havlik, Hudebni rozhledy, No. 4, 1975)

REVIEW: Op. 38, Five Romantic Songs about Love (R. M. Rilke)

“…from the most tender purity… to a dramatic outcry, from light and happiness to… philosophy, this crystalline, wise and yet passionate work presents five aspects of love…”

(Jiri Pilka in his book Viktor Kalabis)

REVIEW: Op. 39, Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord

“…a fundamental work, necessary to grasp the composer’s personality…”

(Jiri Pilka in his book Viktor Kalabis)

REVIEW: Op. 42 Concert for Harpsichord and Strings

“To my mind this Concert is exquisite, one of the key works of its composer because of its polyvalence, of its many mysteries and purely musical riches…”

(Jiri Pilka)

REVIEW: Op. 50, The Pipes of String

“… a most interesting work with clashing dissonances and polymetric structures, which partly deny the innocent title…”

(O.B., Stuttgarter Zeitung, 2 August 1987)

REVIEW: Op. 58, Sonata for Violin and Piano

“…tension growing out of perfectly measured and masterfully handled musical components… the summit of this year’s “Days of Contemporary Music.”

(Pavel Skala, Hudebni rozhledy, 1982)

REVIEW: Op. 65, Canticum Canticorum

“…a sort of Magnificat, though not extolling St. Mary but the eternal might of love… Kalabis appears here more like a contemporary of his compatriot Milan Kundera than a faithful bible mystic, his musical language sensuous… Rilling’s “Kantorei” probably never sang such sensual music before…”

(H. Koegler, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 11 August 1987)

REVIEW: Op. 66, Diptychon for Strings

“… an inward song… full of fantasy and at the same time logical, has been spread before us in unheard-of beauty.”

(Milos Pokora, Hudebni rozhledy, 1988)

REVIEW: Op. 72, The Strange Pipers

“…Viktor Kalabis emerged from the program like a giant, who, though originating in neoclassicism, was somehow much more interesting in original thought, precise form, and exciting instrumentation than those rooted in modernistic styles.”

(Petr Kofron, Lidnove noviny, 4 June 1996)

REVIEW: Op. 84, Sonata for Viola and Piano

“…a masculine, mature song from beginning to end, full-voiced and filled with wisdom, simplicity, charm, equanimity and feeling…a very personal, intimate work.”

(Jan Smolik, Hudebni rozhledy, 1998)

REVIEW: Op. 85, Capriccio for Two Violins and Piano

“…it was the climax of the evening… it does transmit… pure joy of music, entirely…”

(Jan Smolik, Hudebni rozhledy, 2000)

REVIEW: Op. 87, Three Impressions for Two Clarinets

“… if there had been a prize from the audience, in this concert it would surely have gone to Viktor Kalabis, so long and ecstatic was the applause.”

(Jan Smolik, Hudebni rozhledy, 2001)

REVIEW: Op. 91, A Little Suite for Two Bassoons

“…there is a lot of music in this “little” suite! It has dramatic as well as playful points, both bassoons even get to “swing” a bit… Viktor Kalabis set a high standard right at the beginning of the concert.”

(Jan Smolik, Hudebni rozhledy, 2003)

Reviews from the early communist era

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (no opus number)

“…our working classes demand music which reflects their sincere joy in the building of our new socialist future. The road which Kalabis takes with no little self-confidence leads back, not forwards. He should abolish those hard harmonies of his, be more active in the “Socialist Youth Movement” and learn from those new people rather than at the feet of western modernists…”

(Bohumil Karasek, Lidove noviny, 1949)

Op. 4, Second Piano Sonata

“It would be well if Kalabis would endeavor to find in his music more joyous tones and quit those disconsolate, mournful ones in which he is frowning just now and which at his youthful age are decidedly unhealthy and nihilistic…”

(Bohumil Karasek, Prace, 1950)