MÁLEK, JAN (b. 1938)

Czech composer Jan Málek, born on May 18, 1938 in Prague, attended State Conservatory Prague in the years 1956-1961, where he studied composition with Miloslav Kabeláč with whom he then consulted privately on modern composition trends (1963-1974). Since 1963 Jan Málek has been working as music and recording director for Czechoslovak (after 1992, Czech) Radio in Plzeň and in Prague. Jan Málek has written chamber music and orchestral compositions but is best known for his vocal and vocal-instrumental music. After a period of experimenting with what is known as "New Music" (7 Studies for winds and percussion, 1st String Quartet Hallgato es tancnota, the electroacoustic invention Horror Alenae and especially the Three Stages for orchestra and two stereo recorders) two permanent inspiration sources crystallized in his work, namely folklore and history. For a number of years Málek devoted himself to the arrangement of folk songs, mostly for radio and to the interpretation of historic music by advanced amateur ensembles. The said two areas stimulated a number of very specific compositions.
Jan Málek led a very interesting dialogue with folk songs in his 7 Women's Choruses with Solo Violin Yearnings; his 1st Symphony (Sinfonia su una cantilena) is exclusively built on melodic and rhythmic material of the eight bar folk ballad on brilliantly conceived contrast planes. The method of confrontation used in these compositions is one of the typical elements of his creative procedure. Other compositions which significantly reflects his folklore inspirations include the vocal cycles Amorous Flowers, Variations Quando io sarchiava'l lino... or the original Concerto for bagpipes. The history of fine art inspired Málek to compose his Tribute to Michelangelo' s Hammer written on the 500th anniversary of the artist's birth with the symbolic 5 trumpets, 5 trombones, 5 timpani and 5 tamtams and five-part male choir. The work was awarded at the 1975 UNESCO International Composers Tribune. As for literary sources, Málek was inspired by Dante in his Six Sonnets from Dante's Vita Nuova, and by old Czech love poetry in his tender "Svítáníčka" (Aubades). Many of his compositions reflect his interest in early music, as witnessed by his Divertimento for Strings entitled The Peacock's Feather, which includes a pavane in Renaissance style, or the composition for two violas, O Rosa Bella, which is written as glosses of the cantus firmus of John Dunstable's Chanson. However, Málek's tendency towards synthesis of above-mentioned aspects is most obviously manifested in his Requiem super L'homme armé (1998), which is dedicated "to all victims of all wars of our just ending millenary." His Symphony No. 3 was premiered at the review of selected contemporary works 2001 - 2006 "Prague Premieres" in 2007.