Ladislav Kupkovič

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Ladislav Karol Kupkovič (born March 17, 1936) is a Slovak composer and conductor.



Kupkovič was born in Bratislava, and studied violin and conducting there, first at the conservatory, then at the Academy of Performing Arts. He played violin in the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra from 1960 to 1965, and then began to write music for television and film to make a living. At the same time, he was writing more experimental music for concerts. In 1969 he won a music scholarship to West Berlin, and emigrated there the following year. In 1971, he conducted the premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Mixtur in Cologne, a piece dedicated to Kupkovič himself. In the same year, he began to teach music theory at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover, and lives in Hanover today.


Kupkovič has probably become best known for his experiments with the concert form in the 1970s. In Musik für das Ruhrfestspielhaus (1970), he arranged forty performers to play a number of pieces in a concert hall in Recklinghausen over the course of three hours. The pieces were played in various parts of the building, some of them at the same time. Kupkovič called this kind of concert a Wandelkonzert, and Wandelkonzerte have often invited comparisons to John Cage's Musicircus events. The idea was expanded for Klanginvasion auf Bonn (1971), for which 150 musicians played at various venues in Bonn over the course of twelve hours. There is some similarity here to Trevor Wishart's community pieces like Forest Singularity.

Some of the music played in the Wandelkonzerte was written by Kupkovič himself, some of it by other people. Much of it, however, was music by older classical composers which had been altered and adapted by Kupkovič. This process is typical of Kupkovič's instrumental works, and can be seen in such pieces as the series of four Präparierter Texte from 1968. These pieces take quite insignificant parts from well-known pieces of the past, such as the viola or bass drum parts, and isolate them, thus making central music which in its original context was incidental and often barely audible. Präparierter Text 1 is adapted from the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 1, and is for violin and magnetic tape; Präparierter Text 2 is adapted from the first movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony (No. 41), and is for flute, trumpet, timpani, violin, cello and double bass; Präparierter Text 3 is adapted from the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, and is for cymbal, bass drum and magnetic tape; and Präparierter Text 4 is adapted from the Ricercar a 6 from Johann Sebastian Bach's Musical Offering and is for chamber orchestra (a version for full orchestra followed in 1970).

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