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chronological list of works of Alois Hába

[Joe Monzo]

© 1999 by Joe Monzo

Adapted from Jirí Vyslouzil, Alois Hába: zivot a dílo, Prague, 1974.

Biographical information from Suzette Mary Battan, Alois Haba's Neue Harmonielehre des diatonischen, chromatischen, viertel-, drittel-, sechstel-, und zwöftel-tonsystems, PhD dissertation, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, 1980.


Alois Hába was born 1893 June 21 in the small village of Vizovice in Moravia (then part of the Austrian Empire). He had 6 brothers and 3 sisters. At age 5 it was discovered that he had absolute ('perfect') pitch. He and his family played and sang their native Wallachian folk-songs at church and social functions. In school he became very interested in the musical aspects (pitch, rhythm, accent, dynamics, timbre) of Czech speech.

At age 15 (1908) he entered the teacher's training college in Kromeríz, began to develop an interest in Czech nationalism, and heard the works of Smetana and Wagner for the first time. After finishing his studies, he got a job as teacher in Bílovice, a small town near the Hungarian border. He continued his musical studies independently and in 1913 wrote his first compositions, displaying an unwillingness to 'follow the rules' that he maintained all his life.

Hába was dissatisfied by small-town life, and when World War 1 began in 1914, he moved to Prague and became a pupil of Novák at the Conservatory. Here he analyzed Debussy, Reger, Scriabin, and Strauss, and studied non-functional harmonization of Moravian folk-melodies.

He was drafted into the Austrian Army in 1915, went to the Russian front, to the Italian front in 1917, and then to Vienna in early 1918, where he was assigned the collection of Slovakian soldier's songs.

Inspired by recitals given by Willi von Möllendorff on his quarter-tone (24-tET) harmonium, Hába wrote his first quarter-tone piece, Suite in the quarter-tone system, for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. He studied with Jan Brandts-Buys, then Richard Stöhr, and becoming dissatisfied with these strict counterpoint lessons, in the spring of 1918 became a student of Franz Schreker, who brought out his more radical tendencies.

Remaining in Vienna after the war, Hába attended the Private Society concerts held by Schönberg and studied Schönberg's works, and became particularly influenced by the 'athematic' style used by Schönberg in Erwartung. He got a job as proof-reader at Universal Edition, which enabled him to study many of the most recent scores by Schönberg and his students, resulted in the first publication of his compositions (including the 2nd Quartet, his first major quarter-tone work), and began his life-long friendship with Hanns Eisler, with whom he shared political as well as musical opinions. Hába became an ardent Communist at this time.

Schreker moved to Berlin in 1920 and Hába followed. He found his first success as a composer in Berlin, studied Stumpf's and Hornbostel's work in Oriental (i.e., near-eastern) music at their phono-disc archives, and published his first theoretical treatise (in Czech), the small booklet Harmonické základy ctvrttónové soustavy ['Harmonic foundations of the quarter-tone system']. In 1923 he met Ferrucio Busoni, who had advocated the sixth-tone (36-tET) system (altho he never composed in it himself), and who encouraged Hába to continue his work in microtonality. Hába began to attempt the establishment of a school of microtonal music, but as the Nazis gained power he came under attack and was driven out of Berlin.

He returned to Prague but was not welcomed there either, as Czech officials considered him to be 'of the German school'. He managed to get a job teaching workshops at the Prague Conservatory, and designed and got built two quarter-tone pianos by early 1924 and a third in 1925. In 1927, Förster built for him a sixth-tone harmonium, patterned mostly after the design by Busoni. These instruments were bought by and installed in the Conservatory. He also wrote several theoretical articles on microtonality, athematicism, and church modes at this time. In 1925 he wrote his major theoretical work and translated and published it in German, Neue Harmonielehre des diatonischen, chromatischen, viertel-, drittel-, sechstel-, und zwöftel-tonsystems ['New harmony-textbook of the diatonic, chromatic (12-ET), quarter- (24-ET), third- (18-ET), sixth- (36-ET), and twelfth-tone (72-ET) systems'].

After the première of his quarter-tone opera Matka ['Mother'] (probably his most important work) in 1931, Hába emerged as a leader in Czechoslovakian and international modern music. Two quarter-tone clarinets and two quarter-tone trumpets were built especially for this work. Hába also expressed a bold socialist viewpoint in his three operas and became politically active.

Finally, in 1933, when Joseph Suk became director of the Prague Conservatory, Hába became a full professor and established the Department of Quarter-tone and Sixth-tone Music, teaching a complete 3-year curriculum. Here he had much influence over his many students.

In 1939 the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia and banned performance of Hába's work, then in 1941 closed down the Prague Conservatory and prevented him from teaching. In 1945 the Soviet Union 'liberated' Czechoslovakia and he resumed teaching and had several administrative positions.

An important event was Hába's attendance of a lecture by Adriaan Fokker at the International Society of Contemporary Music in 1948; under the influence of this, he engaged in a long study of the fifth-tone (31-tET) system, finally using it in his 16th Quartet in 1967.

Stalin and the Communist Party took over Czechoslovakia in 1948 and this affected both Hába's life and work. His style became simplified, much more 'thematic' and tonal, and he began integrating folk melodies into his work, and also set texts projecting Communist ideology. He also composed much less in microtonal tunings after this. In 1951 his Department of Quarter-tone and Sixth-tone Music was dissolved by the government.

After Stalin's death in 1953, Hába slowly regained his status. He was prolific and continued to compose almost to the end of his life. He died in relative obscurity in 1973.


Hába's earliest published microtonal piece was the 2nd Quartet (1920) and last was apparently the 16th Quartet (1967).

'semitone' refers to the usual 12-tET scale
'quarter-tone' refers to 24-tET
'5th-tone' refers to 31-tET (not 30-tET)
'6th-tone' refers to 36-tET
'12-tone' refers to Schoenberg's '12-tone method'

I'm not sure how much Hába discussed 'three-quarter-tones' (8-tET) in his theoretical works, but he used scales in this tuning in sections of some of his compositions.


AGE DATE OPUS
Prague
21-22
1914-15 1 Sonata for violin and piano
[3-year break in output / World War 1]
Vienna
24-25
1917-18 2 Deux Morceaux pour piano [2 pieces for piano]
25 1918 1a Fugue-suite (3 fugues) for piano
1b Variations on a canon of Robert Schumann, for piano
3 Sonata for piano
26 1919 4 1st String Quartet (semitone)
5 Overture for orchestra
27 1920 6 6 Piano Pieces
7 2nd String Quartet (Hába's 1st published quarter-tone composition)
Berlin
27-28
1920-21 8 Symphonic Fantasy for piano & orchestra
28 1921 9a Fantasy in quarter-tones for violin solo
29 1922 9b Music in quarter-tones for violin solo
1922 10 1st Suite for quarter-tone piano [revised 1932 as op. 11a]
1922 11 2nd Suite for quarter-tone piano [revised 1932 as op. 11b]
29 1922 12 3rd String Quartet (quarter-tone)
13 Vocal-suite in quarter-tones (choir)
14 4th String Quartet (quarter-tone)
30 1923 15 5th String Quartet (Hába's 1st 6th-tone composition)
Prague 16 3rd Suite for quarter-tone piano
17 1st Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
31 1924 18 Fantasy in quarter-tones for cello solo
19 2nd Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
20 3rd Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
22 4th Suite for quarter-tone piano
32 1925 21 Fantasy for violin & quarter-tone piano
23 5th Suite for quarter-tone piano
24 1st Suite for quarter-tone clarinet & quarter-tone piano
25 4th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
26 5th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
-- Neue Harmonielehre (treatise on microtonal theory)
33 1926 27 6th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
28 7th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
29 8th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
30 9th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
31 10th Fantasy for quarter-tone piano
32 Fantasy for viola & quarter-tone piano
34 1927 33 Fantasy for cello & quarter-tone piano
39 4 Modern Dances for piano
34-351927-28 34 Fantasy for flute (or violin) & piano
34 Suite (arr. J. Horák) (bass-clarinet & piano)
35 1928 36 Já [I] (quarter-tone men's choir)
37 6 Pieces for 6th-tone harmonium or string quartet
34-361927-29 35 Matka [Mother] (quarter-tone opera in 10 scenes)
37 1930 [1-year break in output]
38 1931 38 Toccata quasi una Fantasia (semitone piano)
40 Fantasy for Nonet Nr. 1 (12-tone)
39 1932 41 Fantasy for Nonet Nr. 2 (7-tone)
42 5 Choruses (3 quarter-tone boy's or women's voices)
43 Children's Play (quarter-tone children's voices: soli and choir)
44 5 Mixed Choruses (quarter-tone choir)
45 Pracující den [The working day] (10 quarter-tone men's choruses)
40 1933 46 Cesta zivota [The Path of Life], Symphonic Fantasy (orchestra)
-- Mass Songs (choir)
41-431934-36 47 Nová zeme [The New Earth] (12-tone opera in 3 acts & 6 scenes)
43 1936 48 Children's rhymes (medium voice & piano)
44 1937 49 Duo (6th-tone violins)
1938 [Nazi annexation of Czechoslokavia]
44-491937-42 50 Prijd Království Tvé (Nezamestnaní) [Thy Kingdom Come (The Unemployed)] (6th-tone musical drama in 7 scenes)
50 1943 51 Detské nálady [Children's Moods], 8-song cycle (middle voice & quarter-tone guitar)
52 Sonata for guitar
53 Poesie zivota [Poetry of Life], 12-song cycle (soprano & quarter-tone guitar)
54 1st Suite for quarter-tone guitar
55 2nd Suite for quarter-tone clarinet (solo)
51 1944 56 Suite for quarter-tone trumpet & trombone
57 Milenci [The Lovers], 7-song cycle (soprano & piano)
58 5 Moravian Love-songs (mezzo-soprano, guitar or piano accompaniment)
59 Sonata for Chromatic Harp
60 Sonata for Diatonic Harp
51-521944-45 61 Intermezzo and Praeludium for diatonic harp
53-541946-47 62 Sonata for quarter-tone piano
54 1947 63 2nd Suite for quarter-tone guitar
[Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia]
55 1948 64 Ústava 9. kvetna [Constitution of May 9th] (men's choir)
65 3 Men's Choruses
66 Meditace [Meditation] (men's choir)
67 Mír [Peace] (men's choir)
67a Soviet Songs (choir)
1948-50 -- Mass Songs (choir)
56 1949 68 Za mír [For Peace], cantata (choir & orchestra)
57 1950 69 Suite for bassoon solo
70 6th String Quartet (quarter-tone)
71 3 Men's Choruses (men's choir)
72 Suite in quarter-tones for 4 trombones
57-581950-51 73 7th String Quartet ("Christmas") (semitone)
58 1951 [forced retirement - Department of quarter-tone and Sixth-tone Music eliminated]
74 Quartet for 4 bassoons
75a Fantasy for organ
75b Fantasy and Fugue "HABA" for organ
75c 6 Polish Folksongs for harp
76 8th String Quartet (semitone)
59 1952 78 Sonata for clarinet (solo)
79 9th String Quartet (semitone)
80 10th String Quartet (6th-tone)
58-601951-53 77 Valasská suita [Wallachian Suite] (orchestra)
60 1953 82 3rd Nonet
52-621945-55 84 Slovanské mudrosloví [Slovakian Proverbs] (boy's or women's choir & piano)
61-621954-55 83 Violin Concerto
62 1955 81a Suite for violin solo
81b Suite for cello solo
85a Suite in 6th-tones for violin solo
85b Suite in 6th-tones for cello solo
62-641955-57 86 Viola Concerto
64-651957-58 87 11th String Quartet (6th-tone)
64-661957-59 88 Suite Nr. 6 (quarter-tone piano)
89 Fantasy Nr. 11 (quarter-tone piano)
66-671959-60 90 12th String Quartet (quarter-tone)
67 1960 91 Suite (cymbal)
68 1961 92 13th String Quartet (semitone)
68-691961-62 93 Suite in quarter-tones for violin
70 1963 94 14th String Quartet (quarter-tone)
71 1964 95 15th String Quartet (semitone)
96 Suite for bass-clarinet
72-731965-66 [2-year break in output]
74 1967 98 16th String Quartet (5th-tone)
75 1968 99 Suite for saxophone solo
99a Praha [Prague] (choir)
76 1969 100 Suite for bass-clarinet with piano
77 1970 101 Poznámky z deníku [Diary-notes], melodrama (speaker & string-quartet)
69-70,
77-78
1962-63,
1970-71
97 4th Nonet
102 6 Moods for piano
79 1972 103 Suite for violin & piano


updated:

1999.11.09
1999.12.01