Eugen Suchoň was a Slovak composer; he was one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. For many years, he served as the father-figure of Slovak music, remaining true to his national heritage and Slovak culture, while seeking his own individual expression through his music. Born into a musical family, he got his first piano lessons from his mother and was destined to earn a name for himself in the musical industry. With sheer commitment, Eugen rose to become a prominent figure in the field of culture, often holding important posts, and being invited to participate in expert committees. His life spanned the period from the end of the Habsburg Empire through the creation of Czechoslovakia and then the establishment of an independent Slovakia. He composed and initiated the birth of works on classical harmony, and conducted scientific research on the principles of modern harmony with respect to the use of modality. Apart from being an artist, he was an equally determined teacher who expressed his educational principles through his theoretical work and compositions. While many creative artists remain ever interested in the promotion of their own works, his concern was always for the success and well-being of others, most of all, his many students. He was a gifted composer who influenced many future generations of Slovak musicians through his monumental compositions and has an unprecedented place in the history of Slovak music.
Childhood & Early Life
Eugen Suchoň was born on September 25, 1908, at Pezinok, about 20 kilometers north-east of Bratislava, Slovakia, to Ladislav Suchoň, an organist and teacher and his wife, Serafína Suchoňová, a piano teacher.
After receiving his first piano lessons from his mother, he was enrolled for his piano studies at the Bratislava Music School at the age of 12. He became a pupil of the distinguished pianist and composer, Frico Kafenda.
With hard work, he progressed in music and was admitted to the new Bratislava Academy of Music after a few years. From 1927 to 1931, he pursued his music education at the academy under Kafenda.
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In 1933, Eugen Suchoň was appointed a teacher of musical theory and the 'obligatory' piano at the Academy of Music and Drama for Slovakia in Bratislava.
From 1938 to 1941, he served as the Secretary of the academy, and then was selected for the post of Professor, which he held until 1948.
From 1947 to 1950, he was a teacher at the Department of Musical Education at the Pedagogical Faculty of the Slovak University in Bratislava.
During this time, he completed most of the work on his first opera, ‘Krutnava’ ('The Whirlpool'), a powerful psychological drama based on Slovak country life.
From 1950 to 1960, he served as Professor and Head of the Department of Musical Education at the Pedagogical University in Bratislava.
In 1959, he took up the post of Professor of Music Theory at Bratislava University, a post he held until his retirement in 1974.
In 1967–68, he introduced his piano cycle ‘Kaleidoscope’, which implemented his own harmonic theories into practice. In 1978, he published it in his ‘Theory of Chords’, which he summed up as being 'from diatonic total to the 12-note total'.In 1978, he published it in his ‘Theory of Chords’, which he summed up as being 'from diatonic total to the 12-note total'.
In 1971, he composed his ‘Symphonic Fantasia on Bach’ for organ, percussion and strings, which was followed by his ‘Elegy and Toccata’ two years later. In 1977, he came up with ‘Concertino’ for clarinet and orchestra.
His vast repertoire also includes chamber works such as, ‘Piano Quartet’ (1932–33),‘Balladic Suite’ (1935), ‘Sonatina’ (1937),‘Metamorphoses’ (1951–53),‘ Six Pieces for Strings’ (1955–64),‘Poeme Macabre’ (1963), ‘Kaleidoscope’ (1967), and ‘Wedding Dance from opera The Whirlpool’ (1971).
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Some of his symphonic works include: ‘Psalm of the Carpathian land’ (1937–38),‘Metamorphoses’ (1951–53), ‘Symfonietta Rustica’ (1954–55),‘The Breakthrough’ (1977), and ‘Three Songs for Bass’ (1984–85).
One of Eugen Suchoň’s major works from the pre-war period was the cantata ‘Psalm of the Carpathians’, written in 1937-38. He expressed strong nationalistic feelings and protested against the long suppression of the Slovak peoples through this composition.
In 1953, he composed one of his most acclaimed orchestral works titled ‘Metamorphoses’ in which he depicted Slovakia's role during the war years.
In 1959, he completed his second opera, ‘Svatopluk’, which he had begun in 1942. The opera tells the story of King Svatopluk's part in the fall of the Moravian Empire.
One of his most significant contributions to music was his educational activities, the importance of which can be understood by the fact that it coincided with the period of establishing professional music education in Slovakia.
Awards & Achievements
In 1958, he was conferred with the title of 'National Artist' by the state.
He received the ‘State Prize of the Czechoslovak SSR’ thrice in his lifetime, i.e., in 1951, 1954, and 1959.
In 1981, he was awarded the prestigious ‘Herder Prize’ by the University of Vienna.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Herta Schischitzova, and had two children: one son and one daughter.
Eugen Suchoň died on August 5, 1993, in Bratislava.