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Composer Eugen Suchoň (pronouced EH-oo-gen SOO-chawnyah) ranks among the most prominent representatives of contemporary Slovak music. Named National Artist, the composer received the fourfold Laureate of the State Prize, and won many distinctions and awards both in Czechoslovakia and abroad. His compositions acquainted the European musical scene with the typical psychological world of the Slovak man and national ethics on a high artistic level.


Eugen Suchoň was born on September 25, 1908, in Pezinok to an organist’’s family, a musical milieu which fostered his talents. At age twelve he started to study piano at the Bratislava School of Music under the accomplished pianist, composer and teacher, Frico Kafenda. From 1927-1931, he continued his studies at the newly established Academy of Music in Bratislava under the same professor. In 1931, “Sonata in A flat for Violin and Piano and String Quartet” completed his piano and composition studies. Suchoň completed the Academy which corresponded to Conservatory first as a piano student and later as a student of conducting. The European-standard professor, Frico Kafenda, instilled in him such a thorough education in piano performance and composition that his further two years of study at the Masters School of the Prague Conservatory under Vítěslav Novák only underlined the qualities he developed under his Bratislava teacher.


Suchoň began teaching music theory at the Academy of Music and Drama in Bratislava, was appointed secretary, and in 1948 became professor of composition. His pre-war works became the cornerstone of the new Slovak musical culture, especially the cycle of male choral songs, “Balladic Suite,” “Sonatina for Violin and Piano,” “Overture to King Svatopluk,” and especially his monumental cantata, the “Psalm of Sub-Carpathian Land.” From 1948-1960, Eugen Suchoň was the professor and head of the Department of Music Education at the Teacher Training College in Bratislava. The numerous works of this period are dominated by the Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra and the symphonic suite for orchestra, Metamorphoses. Between 1952-1959, Suchoň had worked on his second historical opera, King Svatopluk, representing the monumental dramatic fresco from the period of the Great Moravian Empire. Its premiere took place in Bratislava, Prague and Košice in 1960.


After completing this opera, the composer wrote predominantly chamber and orchestral works, eg. the song cycle for soprano and orchestra or piano, “Ad Astra,” the mixed choir cycle “On Man, Poeme Macabre” for violin and piano, “Contemplations” for narrator and piano, “Six Compositions for Strings,” “Rhapsodic Suite” for piano and orchestra, and “Symphonic Fantasy on B-A-C-H” for organ, string orchestra and percussion. The cycle for piano, “Kaleidoscope,” deserves special attention since this work is performed also by piano, string orchestra and percussion.


Suchoň is a pensive composer driven by a powerful creative passion. He lives by Michelangelo’’s principle that it is necessary “to exert the greatest effort to work and study very hard in order to make the work, created with painstaking labour, look as if it were created quickly, without any effort, and with the greatest of ease.” Suchoň’s work has become a symbol of outstanding quality in Slovak music. His principle is, “to complete each composition in such a way that there would be neither a missing note nor one to spare.” His work ranges from a transition from late romantic chromatism to his own typical modality influenced by characteristic features of old Slovak folk songs to his later affinity to chromatism. He died on August 5, 1993, at Bratislava.

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