Marek Kopelent (Czech: [ˈmarɛk ˈkopɛlɛnt]; 28 April 1932 – 12 March 2023) was a Czech composer, music or and academic teacher, who is considered to have been at the forefront of the "New Music" movement, and was one of the most-published Czech composers of the second half of the 20th century.
After studies in Prague, he worked as a music or. In 1959 he became interested in European avantgarde music and incorporated its developments in his style. He received international recognition when his String Quartet No. 3 was performed at festivals throughout Europe. He co-founded and directed a contemporary music ensemble in Prague, Musica Viva Pragensis, and composed chamber music for them. He studied further for one year in West Berlin on a scholarship by Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst. When he returned, politics had changed to censorship of contemporary music; he lost his job, and his music was banned. For 15 years, he worked as an accompanist at a music school, and composed pieces for foreign commissions that he could not hear being performed. In 1989, he was able to return, and was appointed professor of composition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He was chairman of the Czech section of the International Society for Contemporary Music.
His compositions focus on chamber music, concertante music, and vocal music from solo songs to oratorios, based on a wide range of texts from medieval to contemporary. He received international awards.
Life and career
Kopelent was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on 28 April 1932. His father František Kopelent was a lawyer, and his mother was a French teacher. The boy and his sister were schooled in French. From 1951 to 1955 Kopelent studied composition with Jaroslav Řídký at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He followed the late-Romantic style of his teacher in an orchestral piece concluding his studies, Satanela. He then worked from 1956 as a music or for contemporary music for the Supraphon publishing house.
From 1965 to 1973, Kopelent served as an artistic director of the contemporary music ensemble Musica Viva Pragensis, which had been founded by Petr Kotík in 1961. It was conducted by his colleague Zbyněk Vostřák, and for which he wrote several chamber pieces for the ensemble. In the Prague musical life of the 1960s, both the ensemble and the composers associated with it rose in importance, developing into the Prague Group of New Music, which brought together composers, musicologists and players, in opposition to the official Czech composers' association.
In 1969 Kopelent accepted a scholarship from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, which included a one-year artistic internship (Berliner Künstlerprogram) in West Berlin. In the meantime, the situation in Czechoslovakia changed following the Prague Spring, and New Music was less accepted. In 1971 Kopelent lost his job as or, and his music was banned by the Czechoslovak government for twenty years. He was ostracized by the new Union of Composers, and his ensemble Musica viva Pragensis was not permitted by the authorities to pursue its concert activity.
In 1976 Kopelent accepted a job as a piano accompanist for a children's dance schools in Radotin, where he remained for 15 years. During the 1970s he composed many pieces, a number of them for foreign commissions, but, as he could not leave Czechoslovakia, he was unable to hear their performances.
Kopelent's works include five string quartets, oratorios and concertante works. They have appeared in a number of compilations of Czech composers. He was one of the most-published Czech composers in the second half of the 20th century.
Chléb a Ptáci (Bread and Birds), cantata for contralto, recitation, mixed choir and orchestra, text: poem by Jan Skácel (1957–62), Czech Music Fund (CHF)
Laudatio pacis, by P. H. Dittrich (Germany), Sofia Gubaydulina (USSR) and Kopelent, oratorio for soprano, contralto, tenor, bass and recitation soloists, chamber choir, mixed choir and orchestra to texts by Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius) (1975)
Legend – "De passione St. Adalberti Martyris", oratorio for recitation, mixed choir and orchestra to a Latin text of an ancient Bohemian legend (1981), CHF
Ona skutecne jest (She Really Exists), for tenor, bass, recitation, mixed choir, children's choir and orchestra, text by Vladimír Holan (1985–86)
Messaggio della bontà, oratorio for soprano and baritone, recitation, children's choir, mixed choir and orchestra (1987), Breitkopf & Härtel
Lux mirandae sanctitatis, oratorio for soprano, recitation, mixed choir, children's choir and instrumental ensemble (1994), Supraphon (SU)