One of the most significant composers within the innovative stream of Czech music in the second half of 20th century, Ištvan started composing already during his secondary-school studies in Prague, Nové Město na Moravě, and Brno.
He studied privately, piano with František Maxián and composition with František Suchý and Vilém Petrželka. In 1948 he began his studies at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts with Jaroslav Kvapil, under whose lead he remained until his graduation. In 1956 he started his postgraduate program, and in 1957 he began teaching at the Academy – at first as an assistant professor, and later, from 1966, as an associate professor. He educated 19 students in total, all of whom, in one way or another, adopted and developed his original compositional technique.composer (1987–1999)
Initially, Ištvan was influenced by Moravian folk songs, and his music showed affinity to Janáček, Bartók, and Prokofiev. Among compositions resulting from and elaborating on such impulses belong the Concerto-Symphony for piano and orchestra (1958) and the Ballad on the South for orchestra (Balada o Jihu, 1960).
During the 1960s Ištvan became interested in the so called New Music, which led him to apply dodecaphony and modal scales. By the end of the decade he had found in philosophically contemplative compositions such as The Exorcism of the Time (Zaklínání času, 1967) and the chamber oratorio I, Jacob (Já, Jákob, 1968) a method of his own – a montage of edited isolated elements. He understood the concept of montage as combining short, individual and contrastive, yet stylistically uniform elements, the so called music objects.
In 1966 he described this method in his treatise Montage of Isolated Elements in Music (Montáž izolovaných prvků v hudbě). Besides that, however, he made use of the collage technique as well. This means that within a flow of atonal music the author incorporated his own tonal sections – Renaissance or Baroque stylizations or passages of jazz or rock nature, e.g. Shakespearean Variations (Shakespearovské variace, 1974), Hard Blues (1980), and the like.
In the 1970s he found inspiration in non-European music, with special emphasis on its rhythmical features, as exemplified by Psalmus Niger (1972), the Capriccio (1978) and other compositions. Ištvan is also the author of several scores of incidental music that, in due course, formed a basis of future concert pieces. The composer’s aim here was to prove the material for a concert composition in advance in incidental music, or he made use of the material from a composition in the process of making for a score of stage music.
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