Robert kurka

Robert Frank Kurka (December 22, 1921 – December 12, 1957) was an American composer, who also taught and conducted his own works.


Kurka was born in Cicero, Illinois. He was mostly self-taught, though he studied for short periods under Darius Milhaud and Otto Luening, receiving his M.A. degree from Columbia University in 1948. He held teaching positions at City College of New York, Queens College and Dartmouth College. He is probably best known for the instrumental suite The Good Soldier Schweik (based on Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Schweik), published in 1956, and the subsequent opera of the same name, written just before his death and first performed at the New York City Opera on April 23, 1958. The opera's orchestration was completed by Hershey Kay. The work, based on an antiwar novel by Jaroslav Hasek, drew comparisons to the compositions of Kurt Weill, especially for its satirical, ironic bent and incorporation of popular styles. Kurka also wrote 2 symphonies, 5 string quartets, 6 violin sonatas, and other works for piano, voice, and chorus. He died of leukemia on December 12, 1957, in New York.

List of Works

Full orchestra

  • Music for orchestra, op. 11 (1949)
  • Three Pieces for Orchestra, op. 15
  • Symphony No. 1, op. 17 (1951)
  • Symphony No. 2, op. 24 (1952)
  • Serenade for (Small) orchestra « after Walt Whitman », op. 25 (publ. 1954 ; composed probably around 1945)
  • John Henry, Portrait for Orchestra, op. 27
  • Julius Caesar, Symphony Epilogue After Skakespeare’s Play, op. 28 (1955)

Chamber orchestra

  • Chamber Symphony, op. 3 (1948)
  • Symphony for Strings and Brass, op. 7 (1948)
  • Good Soldier Schweik, Suite from the Opera, for band, op. 22
  • Chamber Sinfonietta, op. 39 (1957)


  • Concerto for violin and chamber orchestra, op. 8
  • Concertino for two pianos, String orchestra and trumpet obbligato, op. 31 (1955)
  • Marimba Concerto, op. 34
  • Ballad for French Horn and Strings, op. 36

String Quartets

  • String Quartet No. 1, op. 1
  • String Quartet No. 2, op. 4
  • String Quartet No. 3, op. 9
  • String Quartet No. 4, op. 12
  • String Quartet No. 5, op. 25

Other Chamber Works

  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1, op. 2
  • Sonata for Solo violin, op. 5
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, op. 10
  • Music for Violin, Trumpet, Clarinet, Horn and Bass, op. 14
  • Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, op. 16
  • Little Suite for Woodwing Quartet, op. 18
  • Sonatina for Cello and Piano, op. 21
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3, op. 23
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 4, op. 30

Piano Works

  • Sonatina, op. 6
  • For the Piano, op. 13
  • Sonata, op. 20
  • Dance Suite for Piano, Four Hands, op. 29
  • Sonatina for Young Persons, op. 40 (1957)
  • Notes from Nature, 10 pieces for children

Choral Works

  • Who Shall Speak for the People, for men’s chorus, op. 32
  • Song of the Broadaxe, for men’s chorus, op. 38



  • Don Randel. The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Harvard, 1996, p. 473.

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