eugen suchoň, composer
Eugen Suchon was born on September 25th, 1908 in Pezinok to an
organist's family. In the milieu of music his talent could develop in
full harmony. At twelve /1920/, he started to study piano at the
Bratislava School of Music under the accomplished piano player,
composer, and teacher Frico Kafenda.
Later on, in 1927 - 1931 he continued his studies at the newly established Academy of Music in Bratislava under the same professor. In 1931 he completed his piano and composition studies by the Sonate in A flat for Violin and Piano and the String Quartett. Suchon completed the Academy /which corresponded to Conservatory/ first as a piano student and later as a student of conducting. The European-standard professor Frico Kafenda instilled him thorough education in piano play and composition so that his further, two-years study at the Masters School of the Prague Conservatory under Vitezslav Novak, only underlined the qualities he has developed under his Bratislava teacher.
The compositions written in this period, the Piano Quartett and the song cycle Nox et solitudo /based on poem by Ivan Krasko/, Little Suite with Passacaglia, Serenade for Brass Quintet and the Burlesque for Violin and Orchestra represent the work of already distinguished and mature composer. These were the years of Eugen Suchon;s teaching music theory at the Academy of Music and Drama in Bratislava. He was also appointed the secretary and after the Academy nationalization /1941- 1948/, the professor of composition. Suchon's pre-war works became the corner-stone of the new Slovak musical culture: especially the cycle of male choral songs Of Mountains /poems by R.Dilong/, Balladic Suite, Sonatina for Violin and Piano, and the Ouverture to the "King Svatopluk", and especially his monumental cantata the Psalm of Sub-Carpathian Land.
Eugen Suchon had worked on his first opera "Krutnava" /The Whirlpool/, for nine long years /1941-49/. Its libretto is based on the nouvelle by Milo Urban "Behind Upper Mill". This work not only was the pioneer of the modern Slovak opera but repeated success of the really first Slovak opera performed on foreign stages drew the attention of the European musical world. From 1948-1960 Eugen Suchon was the professor and the head of the Department of Music Education at the Teacher Training College in Bratislava. The numerous works of this period are dominated by the Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra, and Metamorphoses, the symphonic suite for grand orchestra. The practical education of the future teachers was the integrated part of Suchon's scientific and theoretical activity.
In celebration of his 70th birthday, Slovak composer Eugen Suchon was supervising his first American performance of The Whirlpool. It was sung in English translation by Dennis Burkh-Conn, who was also conducting performances on January 12 and 14, 1979. The Opera Company of Greater Lansing in Michigan was producer of the performance, with Cynthia Auerbach as the director and Edward Haynes as the designer of the sets. Costumes were imported from National Theatre in Prague. The cast included Metropolitan opera stars Alexandra Hunt, James McCray, and Giorgio Tozzi.
Suchon composed and initiated the birth of works on counterpoint, classical harmony, conducted scientific research on the principles of modern harmony with the respect to the use of modality. He supported his theory with composional-instructive works, e.g. the Pictures from Slovakia, the cycle based on motives of the Slovak folk poetry from the lowest to the highest performing and technical level. This effort culminated in his Highlander Suite for piano and orchestra and in the orchestral Symfonietta Rustica.
Between 1952-1959 Suchon had worked on his second, historical opera "King Svatopluk" representing the monumental dramatic fresco from the period of the Great Moravian Empire with the King Svatopluk as the leading character. The premiere of the opera took place in Bratislava, Prague and Kosice in 1960. After completing this opera the composer wrote predominantly chamber and orchestral works, e.g. the song cycle for soprano and orchestra or piano Ad astra, based on poems by Stefan Zary, mixed choir cycle On Man, Poeme macabre for violin and piano, Contemplations for narrator and piano, Six Compositions for Strings, the Rhapsodic Suit for piano and orchestra, Symphonic Fantasy on B-A-C-H for organ, string orchestra and percussion. The cycle for piano Kaleidoscope deserves special attention since this work is performed also by piano, string orchestra and percussions. The last works of the composer include Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra, Elegy, Toccata, and Song Cycles Look to the Unknown, and Three Songs for Bass.
An important part of Suchoň`s legacy lies in his pedagogical activities,
the significance of which is highlighted by the fact that it coincides
with the period of establishing professional music education in
Slovakia. After finishing school in 1933, he began teaching musical
theory and the 'obligatory' piano at the Academy of Music and Drama for
Slovakia in Bratislava; he was its Secretary between 1938 and 1941, and
went on to take up the post of Professor (1941 - 1948). He taught at the
Department of Musical Education at the Pedagogical Faculty of the Slovak
University in Bratislava (1947 - 1950), and went on to work as a
Professor and Head of the Department of Musical Education at the
Pedagogical University in Bratislava (1950 - 1960). After these schools
were amalgamated under the umbrella of Comenius University's
Philosophical Faculty (in 1960), he remained as a Professor of Musical
Theory until his retirement in 1974. Suchoň expressed his educational
principles through his theoretical work and compositions.
Eugen Suchoň soon became an established figure in the field of culture, often holding important posts, and being invited to participate in expert committees. 1933 - 1938: Secretary of the Czechoslovak Union of Musical Professions for Slovakia; at the same time, he headed the examination committee for composition at the University of Performing Arts in Bratislava; 1963 - 1970: chair of the festival committee at the Bratislava Music Festival - the most eminent international music festival in Slovakia - as well as other music festivals (the Musical Summers in Trenčianske Teplice and Piešťany); long-time chair of the Slovak Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (1945 - 1976); as chair of the Preparation Committee, he helped establish the Slovak Philharmonic (1949 - 1950); as a member of the board, he contributed to the establishment and shaping of the Union of Slovak Composers and Concert Performers (1948 - 1982, chair from 1972 to 1982); member of the Slovak parliament - the Slovak National Council (1971 - 1982). Eugen Suchoň`s talents were also acknowledged abroad - for example, he was the vice-president of the international organisation for copyright protection, the Paris-based CISAC (1966 - 1969), and a member of the East German Academy of Arts in Berlin (1975). At home, he received wide acclaim for his works.
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