Master of Fine Arts Jan Klusák

* 1934

  • “At that time I just finished the electro-acoustinc composition O sacrum con vivium. I was working on it in this hot summer of 1968 in the Radio together with the legendary sound technician Mr. Zamazal. We finished it around 19th August, shortly before the occupation. Mr. Zamazal locked the recording in a wall-mounted cabinet in the building of the Radio, and the cabinet was fixed so that it was not possible to remove it from there. It thus remained locked inside and then came the occupation. I talked with Mr. Zamazal and he told me that he didn’t know what had happened with it. The Russian army took over the whole building, and when they were leaving, they stole absolutely everything. They took everything which they could carry or tear away – tape recorders, chairs, desks – they carried away everything. But the recording was in the cabinet within the wall, and it was not possible to unlock it or take it away. Therefore they didn’t find it and it has remained there. Mr. Zamazal later found it there and he called me that he found it and that it was still there. So this was the story of the recording and its relation to the occupation of the Radio building.”

  • “I also need to tell you that during the turmoil in 1968 the officials were afraid that people would hang them just like in Hungary, and they were so hysterical. There was certain singer Cutych who was at the Ministry of Culture, and he contacted me during one of the rallies in support of Dubček. Apart from him, there was also some old hag who looked like a housekeeper. They dragged me to the ministry and they started persuading me that they had been Dubček’s supporters and that they had always been the progressive ones, and that they had always protected those like me. And that I needed to testify for them, if something happened, that I needed to defend them and declare that they had actually been nice to people. And as soon as the regime took a turn, this same Cutych at the ministry was yelling that he will ban everybody, and that those like me will be banned first.”

  • “It began to show around the end of 1969; before that we had been able to perform somewhere from time to time. Then my 6th Invention for Nonet was to be performed somewhere. It was to be played during one of the Union’s Wednesday concerts. It was a mixed program, and my composition was to be one of the works performed. I came there for the concert and I was told that there would be no concert, because the nine players got sick. From that time, every musician who was to play my work would get sick. Smetáček was forbidden to play my symphonies, and only at the end of 1970 they allowed him to repeat my 2nd Symphony for one more time. Eventually, I was to compose music for somebody’s film, I no longer remember who it was, and this person got a phone call from the Barrandov film studios that I was not allowed to compose music for his film either. That was already in 1970, the person in charge of music in Barrandov was the program manager Toman, who came there to carry out the purges.”

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 21.01.2015

    (audio)
    duration: 04:11:04
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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To hide and survive…

As a young man
As a young man
photo: archiv pamětníka

  Jan Klusák (original name Jan Filip Porges) was born on April 18, 1934 in Prague in a family of a mechanical engineer. His father was of Jewish origin, and the family lived separately for this reason. Jan Klusák grew up with his mother and during the war also with his grandmother in Polabec near Pardubice. His father probably died in early 1945 in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Jan’s mother began to use her maiden name after the war and she had her son renamed as well. Jan Klusák studied the state grammar school in Benešov and later he went to study composition at the Academy of Performing Arts. After his studies he worked first with the ensemble Chamber Harmony (Komorní harmonie) which was led by Libor Pešek, and later he began composing music for theatre and film. He worked with authors of the so-called Czech New Wave. He himself appeared in films as an actor. In the 1960s he collaborated with Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, Jan Němec, Jaromil Jireš and many others. He was composing film music especially for director Otomar Krejča (The Garden Party, Keyowners, The End of the Carnival, etc.) After the occupation of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968 his music began to be regarded as undesirable. From 1969 to 1976 Klusák also worked with the Jára Cimrman Theatre as an actor and musician. His music was almost never performed in concerts, but it appeared in animated films, especially thanks to directors Jiří Brdečka and Jaroslav Boček. A turn came in 1977 when director Jaroslav Dietl offered him to work on his film serial Hospital on the Edge of Town. From the 1980s he was also working with Jan Švankmajer, who became an icon of animated film. After the Velvet Revolution, Jan Klusák served in many prestigious positions, he was elected the chairman of the music department of the restored club Umělecká beseda, a vice-chairman of the Czech Music Council and a member of the art committee of the international music festival Prague Spring. Although his music for film, television and theatre is known better, Klusák is also an author of many compositions for chamber ensembles and orchestras. His music style is influenced by dodecaphony and serialism. He is one of the most interesting Czech music composers of the modern era. In 2006 he was awarded the Medal of Merit 3rd Grade by the Czech president Václav Klaus.