Performance to Celebrate Music of Acclaimed Composer Vaclav Nelhybel

November 8, 2016

 

A Nov. 19 performance by The University of Scranton Symphonic Band will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of composer Vaclav Nelhybel. The performance, free of charge and open to the public, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the University’s Houlihan-McLean Center.

The University of Scranton Symphonic Band will present a concert commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of iconic composer Vaclav Nelhybel on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the University’s Houlihan-McLean Center, Mulberry Street and Jefferson Avenue.

Admission to the concert, presented by Performance Music at the University, is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis.

While continuing his internationally acclaimed musical career, the Czech-born Nelhybel served first as a frequent guest composer and conductor and then as the University’s composer-in-residence from the mid-1980s until his death in 1996. In that time, he made a huge lasting impact at Scranton.

Since 1999, the University has been home to The Nelhybel Collection, which provides researchers with access to the composer’s published and unpublished compositions, personal papers and manuscript scores, among other materials. The collection is curated by his wife, Dorothea Nelhybel.

At the concert, the Symphonic Band will present such landmark Nelhybel compositions as “Trittico,” “Corsican Litany,” “Fanfares (Smetana-Nelhybel)” and “Agon,” the first piece he wrote specifically for the University’s band, which he conducted them in the world premiere performance of in 1984.

According to Cheryl Y. Boga, conductor and director of Performance Music at the University, the concert will open with a performance of Nelhybel’s arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and close with his setting of the University’s alma mater.

“His music is both challenging and exciting. It’ll be rewarding work to try and bring it to life with the students,” said Boga of the Symphonic Band, which is made up of about 100 members of the campus community, mostly undergraduate students and all non-music majors.

Boga said she knew music was her intended life path after playing Nelhybel’s “Corsican Litany” as a student. She had little idea then that the composer would one day go on to become a mentor and close friend.

“He was my total hero,” she said. “He came in and it was like an instant connection with the students and the area. He was not only a tremendously gifted, skilled and respected composer, but also just a genius of an educator, and a genius in how to get it done in a rehearsal. He knew how to turn someone loose in order for them to do their best – how to get them out of their comfort zone. I learned so much from him.”

Born in 1919 in Polanka, Czechoslovakia, the Jesuit-educated Nelhybel later studied composition and conducting at the Conservatory of Music in Prague and musicology at Prague University and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Following World War II, he composed and conducted for Swiss National Radio and went on to become the musical director of Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany. He held that position until immigrating to the United States in 1957. In 1994, Nelhybel and his wife moved to Scranton.

Nelhybel’s prolific body of work includes more than 400 published concertos, operas and compositions for symphony orchestra, symphonic band, chorus and smaller ensembles. While most of his works prior to arriving in the United States were written for professionals, he loved composing for student musicians, Boga said.

“Very few people really know the breadth of his music,” she said. “He was so ahead of the curve, so ahead of his time. And he didn’t do it for the money; he cared very little for the ‘business’ part of composing. He wrote because something had to come out.”

For more information on the concert or The Nelhybel Collection at Scranton, contact Performance Music at Scranton by calling 570-941-7624, emailing music@scranton.edu, or visiting scranton.edu/music or nelhybel.org.

 

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