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Petr Eben

January 22, 1929 - October 24, 2007
born in Zamberk, Czech Republic, composed during the Contemporary period
Arguably the foremost Czech composer from the latter twentieth and early twenty first centuries, Petr Eben produced a substantial output largely of vocal, choral, symphonic, organ, piano, and chamber works. In many ways he was the Czech counterpart to Olivier Messiaen, owing to the two composers' common religion -- Roman Catholicism -- and, more importantly, their tendency to write music, both vocal and purely instrumental, inspired by it. Eben survived both imprisonment by the Nazis and decades-long oppression by the Soviet-dominated Czech Communist government. Stylistically, he was uncompromising when others were willing to write politically correct music. Not that Eben's works are especially difficult or inaccessible; most listeners would find his expressive language no further advanced than that of Britten or Messiaen, two composers who may well have influenced him. Eben was considered a master at improvisation on the organ and his music has been widely performed and recorded since about 1980, with his popularity still apparently on the rise.

Eben was born in Zamberk, Czechoslovakia, on January 22, 1929, and grew up in the Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov. He was precocious, studying piano, organ, and cello there from his early youth. After the Nazi invasion and occupation of his homeland, Eben, a Roman Catholic with a Jewish father, was imprisoned in the notorious death camp Buchenwald from 1943 to 1945. In 1948 he enrolled at the Prague Academy of Music, where he studied under Pavel Borkevec (composition) and Frantisek Rauch (piano). He graduated in 1954 and the following year began teaching music history at Prague's Charles University, on whose faculty he remained until 1990.

Eben's earliest large works included his 1954 First Organ Concerto (the Second came in 1984) and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1960-1961). In 1977-1978 Eben taught at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, and thereafter developed other musical ties to England. Throughout his life Eben refused to join the Czech Communist Party and continued openly attending church, thus forfeiting many career advancements. After the Communist government crumbled, however, he was given several important appointments and awards, among them presidency of the Prague Spring Festival (1989) and the Medal of Merit (2002). Among Eben's most important late works is his 1992-1993 oratorio Posvatna znameni (Sacred Symbols). Despite declining health from a stroke in his final years, Eben remained busy, composing mostly organ and choral works. He died in Prague on October 25, 2007. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Petr Eben: Organ Music, Vol. 4

Title: A Festive Voluntary, Variations On Good King Wenceslas For Organ
Title: Chorale Fantasy 'Amen, Es Werde Wahr', For Organ

2. Chorale Fantasy 'Amen, Es Werde Wahr', For Organ: Chorale Fantasy 'Amen, Es Werde Wahr'

Title: Choral Fantasias (2) For Organ
Title: Protestant Chorales For Organ (from The Hymn Book Of The Bohemian Brothers)
Title: Nedelní Hubda (Sunday Music), For Organ
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Track List: Songs

Title: Six Love Songs

1. Six Love Songs: Kind Night

2. Six Love Songs: Sommer Is Come

3. Six Love Songs: Under The Linden Tree

4. Six Love Songs: You Are Mine

5. Six Love Songs: Send Me No Messages

6. Six Love Songs: Balld Of The Ladies Of Bygone Days

Title: The Most Secret Songs

7. The Most Secret Songs: Along The Roads Of Love

8. The Most Secret Songs: So Has Love With Pain

9. The Most Secret Songs: Conversation

10. The Most Secret Songs: Into My Heart

11. The Most Secret Songs: Rondel

12. The Most Secret Songs: Parting

13. The Most Secret Songs: A Song

14. The Most Secret Songs: I Follow You

15. The Most Secret Songs: Time Flowing

Title: Loveless Songs

16. Loveless Songs: The Wall

17. Loveless Songs: Separation

18. Loveless Songs: For Instance

19. Loveless Songs: Till Death Do Us Join

20. Loveless Songs: Anno Domini Mcmxxi

21. Loveless Songs: Nostalgia

Title: Von Rainer Maria Rilke

22. Von Rainer Maria Rilke: All Through Your Listening And Bewilderment Calm Down

23. Von Rainer Maria Rilke: Folk Song

24. Von Rainer Maria Rilke: An Autumn Day

25. Von Rainer Maria Rilke: Lull Talk

26. Von Rainer Maria Rilke: The Evening Is My Book

27. Von Rainer Maria Rilke: Premonition

Title: Songs From Tesin Country

28. Songs From Tesin Country: Hey, Round About Tesin

29. Songs From Tesin Country: The Bridge In Tesin Town

30. Songs From Tesin Country: By Yonder Side Of The Lake

31. Songs From Tesin Country: In A Green Grove

32. Songs From Tesin Country: There Was A Valley

33. Songs From Tesin Country: Come Sunday Morning

34. Songs From Tesin Country: I Knowof A Bird

35. Songs From Tesin Country: Twain Little Doves They Flew

36. Songs From Tesin Country: Woebegone World

37. Songs From Tesin Country: Over Hill And Water

38. Songs From Tesin Country: The Girls They Boast

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