He even sent thank-you notes for birthday cards

He even sent thank-you notes for birthday cards


norman lebrecht

December 16, 2016

Tributes are coming in for Karel Husa, a great composer and wonderfully courteous man who, we learn, never allowed any communication to go unanswered.

A Czech exile in the United States from 1954, his music banned in his homeland for the next 35 years, Husa left a huge footprint on American music through the hundreds of composers that he taught, encouraging them to go beyond conventional sound.

His student, Byron Adams, wrote this in Husa’s New Grove entry: Given his propensity to experiment, it is not surprising that Husa has composed for an impressive array of instrumental combinations. With the exception of opera, he has explored virtually every major musical genre from song to symphony. In his search for colourful and novel sonorities, Husa creates vividly expressive musical canvases, filled with arresting timbres and startling juxtapositions of texture; he can be described as the abstract expressionist par excellence of late twentieth music. 

His death two days ago, recorded on Slipped Disc, has yet to be acknowledged by any US media, online or cold print, or by any music institution except his publisher.


  • Ross Amico says:

    Hey, thanks to you, Norman, at least I put it on my Facebook page. That’s got to be at least as valid as the New York Times.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    I heard of Husa’s passing early the morning of the 15th, and immediately posted it to my Facebook page.

    I had the please to serve as his “man Friday” during a residency at the University of Northern Iowa in 1991. One would think that someone of his complex music would be unreachable by a fledgling educator and conductor like me. We hit it off very well and I’ve always thought of him as my “grandfather”.