Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Petr Hapka (1944-2014)

A top Czech composer of dozens of film music scores (e.g. The Virgin and the Monster or Boys the Masters), Petr Hapka, died at age of 70, due to Alzheimer that has annoyed him for a year. The lyrics for his songs were usually written down by Michal Horáček. November 2014 is a negative month for Czech music – Petr Skoumal, another composer, died a few weeks ago.

This duet, "May the earth rest lightly on me", is unfortunately the most natural summary of the sad event. Hapka himself was singing – which is what those Czech composers and actors, who are not professional singers but who are not tone-deaf, do rather frequently. My English translation was obtained from Czech via an intermediate step in Latin. Latin rules.

We would sometimes sing this song with an ex-GF of mine which made sense because I was Czech and she was Slovak, like Jana Kirschner who sings in the video above. Just the age difference was exaggerated by the factor of \(\pi\) or \(2\pi\).

If you think that Jana Kirschner is too young for Mr Hapka, let me tell you that a recent partner of Hapka's, Ms Kateřina Klepišová, was even younger – 48 years younger than Hapka. ;-)

Lucie Bílá, a #1 Czech female singer, would also record a duet with Hapka, I am looking looking.

Hapka may have been building an image of an even older man than he was (or he appeared to be) and if you want a smaller age difference in a duet, try The Lavender Song with Hana Hegerová, a much older singer.

He sings that she smells like lavender, and so on.

He would write songs for many other interpreters.

This is the 1989 song "With a female stranger in a strange unknown room" by Michael Kocáb who was a minister for human rights five years ago.

The Slovak musician Richard Müller would sing this (Czech) song by Hapka, "Happiness is such a beautiful thing" [but you can't buy the money for it].

This is something else than a song to be sung – his composition for the Singing Fountain in Marienbad, a well-known Western Bohemian spa town. We would visit the town often with my mother when I was a kid. The fountain looked and sounded pretty good. Communism or non-communism, such things helped to preserve some national pride. (I think that those 30+ years ago, I would have preferred the fountain with a composition by Chopin, incorrectly thinking it was Hapka's, but I am not able to find out which composition it was now. Can you help me?) These days, this fountain looks rather lame compared to those that are being built in the present.

Dramatic update Nov 2019: Because Putin decorated the composer and I checked the compositions, I finally discovered my favorite Singing Fountain composition from the childhood: it was Nokturno in G by Vadim Petrov. Thanks, Putin and Petrov.

Hapka himself was no dissident. He was no communist sycophant, either, although he was among those who would sign the "Anticharter" in 1977 where artists would condemn Havel and those who signed the anti-communist "Charter 77". But that's not such a big deal – even Dagmar Veškrnová, later a wife of Václav Havel, signed the Anticharter against the Charter penned by her future husband! ;-)

Sausages, beer, and hatred. Check also The Tomcat Hunched on Your Crotch.

When Hapka died, a critic would immediately declare that Hapka's production was a pile of overrated kitsch (which is why embedded the pub-based song above).

I think that when it comes to arts, such appraisals are always subjective. Hapka's music was interesting, nontrivial, catchy (probably less catchy than Karel Svoboda's music, however), and mysterious enough for me to appreciate him which is why I do so. It's still vastly more valuable than what a critic produces in his life (or ten lives, for that matter).

Rest in peace, Mr Hapka.

No comments:

Post a Comment