Hába was not content merely to find new contexts within the existing tone system, instead,
he sought to construct finer grids by inserting more pitches into the system.
George Haas on Alois Hába
Hába, born in a small village in Moravia (then part of the Greater Austrian empire
) in 1893,
discovered his musical talents when he was five years old. He and his family used to
sing folk songs
at churches and other social events.
At the age of 15 he enters the Teachers college in Komeriz where he develops an interest
in Czech Nationalism
and probably heard works of Wagner
for the first time.
After his study he becomes a teacher in Bilovice
, but continues to develop his musical
skills: eventually writing his first compositions in 1913.
Unsatisfied with small-town life he moves to Prague
to become a pupil of Novak at
the Prague Conservatory. When the First World War
breaks out, Hába is being drafted
into the Army: he's stationed at the Russian front then relocated to the Italian front
and finally ends up in Vienna in 1917.
In Vienna he becomes inspired by composers like Franz Schreker
who 'adopts' him as a pupil.
As a proof-reader at Universal Edition
(one of the most progressive music publishers at that time)
he is allowed to study the scores of Arnold Schoenberg
and especially his pupil Hanns Eisler
. Around this time he finishes his first major
quarter-tone experiment (Second Quartet
). His friendship with Eisler
results in his membership in the Communist
When Schreker moves to Berlin
in 1920, Hába joins him. Berlin, then the center of modern music,
embraces Hába's experiments. When Hába meets Ferruccio Busoni
, the latter encourages him to continue
his work in microtonality
. Attempts to establish a school specialized in microtonal composing,
end when his music is critized by Nazi music critics. Hába eventually flees to Prague
Although not welcomed there (because the authorities think he's from the 'German school') he finds
a job as a music teacher. One of the famous pianobuilders (Förster) even builds
him several quarter-tone pianos and a sixth-tone harmonium (basically based on a design by Busoni).
After the premiere of his 'Matka' (Mother) Opera in 1931, Hába finally emerges as one of
the leaders of microtonal composing in Czechoslovakia and abroad: the opera introduces two quarter-tone clarinets and two
quarter-tone trumpets, instruments made especially for the premiere.
In 1933, Hába accepts the position of Professor at the Prague
Conservatory and establishes
the Department of Quarter-tone and Sixth-tone Music. When the Nazis occupy Czechoslovakia in 1939,
his music is banned and the Conservatory is closed (1941).
After the war, when the Russians 'liberate' Prague
, Hába is allowed to resume working: his works
are getting more and more tonal and less microtonal. In 1951 his Department Quarter-tone and
Sixth-tone Music is disolved again, now by the Communist authorities. Hába, who once more catches
the virus of Microtonal composing, releases the first fifth-tone music piece ever in 1967, his 16th Quartet
's death, Hába slowly regains his old status.
Although praised by fellow composers on his experiments and influence on modern music, and
especially for the microtonal music, he dies (1973) under relative obscure circumstances.
List of key works
- Overture for orchestra, op. 5 (1920)
- Symphonic Fantasy for piano and orchestra, op. 8 (1920 - 21)
- Wallachian Suite for orchestra, op. 77 (1952-53)
- String Quartet No. 1, op. 4 (1918)
- String Quartet No. 2 in the quarter-tone system, op. 7 (1920)
- Fantasy for flute (or violin) and piano, op. 34 (1927-28)
- Fantasy for nonet No. 1 in the twelve-tone system, op. 40 (1931)
- Duo for two violins in the sixth-tone system, op. 49 (1937)
- String Quartet No. 7 "Christmas", op. 73 (1950-51)
- String Quartet No. 11 in the sixth-tone system, op. 87 (1957)
- String Quartet No. 12 in the quartet-tone system, op. 80 (1959-60)
- String Quartet No. 13, op. 92 (1961)
- String Quartet No. 14 in the quarter-tone system, op. 94 (1963)
- String Quartet No. 15, op. 95 (1964)
- String Quartet No. 16 in the fifth-tone system, opus 88 (1967)
- Variations on a Canon by Robert Schumann for piano, op. l6 (1918)
- Deux morceaux pour piano, op. 2 (1917 - l8)
- Sonata for piano, op. 3 (1918)
- Six Piano Compositions, op. 6 (1920)
- Fantasy for violin solo in the quarter-tone system, op. 9a (192l)
- Music for violin solo in the quarter-tone system, op. 96 (1922)
- Toccata quasi una fantasia for piano, op. 38 (1931)
- Four Modern Dances for piano, op. 39 (1927)
- Sonata for Quarter-tone Piano, op. 62, (1946-1947)
- Suite for Quarter-tone Guitar op 63 (1947)
- Suite for bassoon solo, op. 69 (1950)
- Fantasy for organ, op. 75a (1951)
- Suite for violin solo in the sixth-tone system, op. 85a (1955)
- Suite for violoncello solo in the sixth-tone system, op. 85b (1955)
- Mother, opera in the quarter-tone system, op. 35 (1927-29), in 10 scenes
- A New Land, op. 47 (1934 - 36), opera in 3 acts.
- The Kingdom Come (Unemployment), musical drama in the sixth-tone system, op. 50 (1941 - 42)
- Harmonic Principles of the Quarter-tone System
- On the Psychology of Composition, the Laws on Tonic Movement and the Principles of a New Musical Style
The Czech Musical project for the key works and short biography.