May 25, 1950

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. His father then was sound engineer with Czechoslovak Radio, later held technical office jobs in various industrial companies. Mother was shop-assistant, from childbirth on disability pension.

Autumn 1955

First lessons in piano and music theory, initially private, then, from 1959, at state music school. Music teachers encourage young student´s penchant for composition.


Music school piano professor initiates meeting with Jan Zdeněk Bartoš who teaches composition at Prague Conservatory. During the following three years Bartoš prepares O.K., free of charge, for Conservatory entrance exam. From then O.K. devotes himself systematically to composition (early attempts include sonata for violin, sonata for piano, wind quintet, string quartet, and symphony).

Sept. 1, 1965

Beginning of studies at Prague Conservatory courses of organ and composition. Teachers include Josef Kubáň (organ), Miroslav Raichl, František Kovaříček, J.Z. Bartoš (composition; forms and analysis; instrumentation), Zdeněk Hůla (harmony;counterpoint). During Conservatory studies writes a number of composition studies, apart from that composing “for himself” (typically while on holiday), works including a concerto for piano and orchestra, and another symphony.

Oct. 1, 1969

Enrols for studies at Prague´s Academy of Music, Department of Composition, class of Jiří Pauer (opening term in the class of Emil Hlobil). His compositional thinking of the time, influenced by Classical European music (intensive study of J.S. Bach´s legacy inspired by previous Conservatory “organ-oriented” erudition; on the whole, a tendency to embrace the “Classical” line of Bach – Mozart – Beethoven – Brahms – Dvořák – Tchaikovsky – Franck – Hindemith – Prokofiev – Shostakovich), is newly confronted with study of “Musica Nova.” Simultaneously with composition study, work as performing musician (organ, piano, harpsichord).


Marriage with fellow-student from organ class, Miluška Wagnerová (daughters Eva, b. 1974, and Martina, b. 1977). By then O.K. assumes a more sharply defined standpoint on the future development of his compositional style: namely, while adopting from Musica Nova a number of technical elements (concept of “colour”, so-called aleatory technique, option of loosening time zones assigned to
individual voices of musical texture; yet renouncing serial approach, for its reliance on extramusical aspects), he aspires to transplant, by way of synthesis, onto “Classical” approach (involving distinct thematic material in all components;
logical, audible harmony; clearly defined formal structure in accord with lucid tectonics, etc.), which he regards as best suited for the realization and, most notably, the impact of his compositional idiom.


Completes studies at Academy of Music, submitting as his degree thesis Symphony for Organ and Orchestra. By then he is already employed as voice coach at the Prague National Theatre opera company. After graduation he engages in extensive compositional activity, often motivated purely by inner creative impulse. Of crucial importance for O.K.´s further development as composer is his involvement in a friendly association of composers of the same generation (Vladimír Tichý, Miroslav Kubička, Pavel Jeřábek, Štěpán Rak, Juraj Filas, Jiří Gemrot, plus occasionally others). The group´s regular meetings offer platform for in-depth study of works of all periods and styles. The outcome of this process is the reaffirmation of O.K.´s pursuit in the line of “synthesis” between Classical style and certain elements of Musica Nova.


After return from yearlong national service (in the Army Art Ensemble), he takes up a job as music director in Czechoslovak Radio. At that time, he earns comparatively early repute as composer, thanks to several prizes from composers contests, as well as to several relatively successful premieres (Piano Trio; Sinfonietta “Metamorphosis,” etc.). O.K.´s works are performed on prestigious Czech platforms (New Compositions Week; Young Platform at Karlovy Vary; Smetana Youth Fest at Litomyšl; and subsequently, Prague Spring; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra´s subscription series); admission as member of Composers´ Union; appointments to various posts connected with organizing Czech music life; commissions from prestigious chamber ensembles for new works which are performed in his home country and internationally; release of O.K.´s compositions on records, and publication of sheet music. His performed works are mostly acclaimed by musicians, audiences and a section of the critical community, while others tend to reject them for the alleged conservatism of the Classical foundation of the composer´s style. Consequently, he proceeds to undertake an introspective reassessment of the underlying principles of his musical thinking. The outcome is a more radical integration of elements from Musica Nova (involving the use of more elaborate means in both melodics and chordal structure, as well as in stylization and compositional structure; all of this, however, without ever renouncing the need for lucid thematic groundwork as the basis of musical message), which is reflected in several compositions dating from around 1980 (String Quartet No. 4; first version of Symphony in E flat major, and others).


From Sept. 1, employed as secretary of the Composers
Union. Thereby he obtains further room for compositional work. During the early 1980s, though, he passes through a creative crisis. His latest output then received more warmly by former adversaries (albeit not without reserve), but reception by musicians and audiences becomes much cooler. Most importantly, however, O.K. himself feels frustration at the complexity and “uncommunicativeness” of his works. In a series of smaller-scale compositions, a process of seeking and learning a more straightforward compositional style. The result of this endeavour is a number of chamber compositions, Canival of the World overture, and Symphony in D major. This “old-new” creative approach is encouraged by certain developments in international music: namely, departure of some composers from the “Avant-garde” movement, and the general spread of postmodernist concepts. O.K.´s compositions from the second half of the 1980s are no longer so heavily influenced by the dilemma of choosing a style. The composer reserves for himself the right to use a language of his own choice, coming to regard as the sole yardstick the import and the professional qualities of his output. Works from that period include most notably Symphonic Passacaglia R.U.R.; Symphony for String Quartet and Orchestra; String Quartet No. 5; and large-scale piano cycle, Album.


Radical change of the country´s social structure
entails transformation of all institutions which
upheld contemporary music productions. Stringent cuts in financial subsidies lead to radical narrowing of the scope of opportunities for new works to assert themselves. Virtually exclusive focus, by organizers and interpreters alike, on “time-tested” repertoire, is tantamount to minimum chances of new works for repeated performance. Financial dire straits lead composers to seek jobs – frequently cumulating more than one -, which in its turn stifles their creative output. In these circumstances, O.K. once again takes up a job in Czechoslovak Radio, as programme manager and music editor. Simultaneously, he starts to teach at Prague Conservatory, initially lecturing in theory of music, then in composition (since 1997 as head of Composition Department). Hitherto relatively abundant repeat performances of O.K.´s works are narrowed down to a mere trickle. His compositional career now takes a twin course: one of its lines consists in the production of small-scale compositions destined for specific occasions; and the other, in the writing of large-scale “idealistic tableaux” without much hope of their immediate performance (e.g., Requiem).


His wife dies; three years later, marriage with
Dr Jana Smékalová (long-time programme manager of
Supraphon, since 2000 employed at the Jewish Museum in Prague). O.K. writes several larger-scale compositions (Serenatta noturna for String Orchestra; String Quartets Nos. 6 and 7; Sextet for Oboe, Harp and String Quartet; “Four Seasons” Symphony; song cycle, Crescendo), mostly on specific commissions. The character and style of these works are determined by their concept and intended contents. Successful productions of the tableau, Cassandra, in Germany; and of the cycle, Crescendo, in Prague.


Otomar Kvěch died in Prague on March 16, 2018.