Frantisek Kmoch

Frantisek Kmoch: Brief Biography

Frantisek Kmoch was born at Zasmuky, about ten miles from Kolín, Bohemia on August 1, 1848. His father was a tailor and an ardent folk musician who played clarinet. Young Frantisek began the study of the violin and made his first attempts at composition in his late teens. He entered a teachers' college in Prague in 1868 and accepted his first teaching position at Suchdol (near Kolín) in 1869. Throughout his teaching career, he continued to perform with various musical ensembles.

He was suspended from the teaching profession in late 1873. Official reasons for the suspension stated his neglect of school duties and his performing at public dances. The suspected true reason, however was his politically unacceptable affiliation with the nationalistic Sokol movement. His livelihood thereafter centered around performing at dances.

Kmoch became the band leader for the Sokols in the town of Kolín when he was only 20 years old. When the Sokols had a gymnastic convention in Prague in 1873, the Kolín Kmoch band had an important part in the opening ceremonies. All the people who heard the Kmoch band perform knew that this was a great band playing Kmoch's own original compositions as well as his special arrangements of their familiar folk tunes.

Kmoch's music as he scored it for his band always had words in the middle part. This we know today as the trio and was always heard three times during the playing of the piece since the people always enjoyed singing the words to the tunes. Arguably, Kmoch played a key role in the historical development of march and polka form as we commonly know it today.

Kmoch married Josefa Kahslova, daughter of a Kolín metalworker, and the couple had five daughters. He had a contract and a minimal salary with the Sokol movement as a bandmaster in Kolín. This eventually led to his becoming municipal band director in Kolín, and there he established his own music school. The school was officially recognized in 1882. As the years passed, he was offered positions as municipal band director in several cities, including Prague. He declined, preferring to remain in Kolín. He did tour many cities of the Austro-Hungarian empire, including Vienna, Budapest and Krakow, with his Kolín band. The tour schedules included a three-month series of concerts in Russia.

Frantisek Kmoch died in Kolín on April 30, 1912 at the age of 64. He has quite fittingly been compared to the American band leader and composer of the same era, John Philip Sousa.

The Czech wind band (brass band) had its foundation in Kmoch's works. Kmoch's total output has been estimated at nearly 500 works, including dozens of fine marches. As a reaction against the military marches of the Empire, he composed marches with their roots in folk music. The intent was to make people feel good about their nationality and his marches were not necessarily intended for marching feet. Kmoch created the truly Czech march.

Ten years after his death in 1922, the city of Kolín built a monument honoring the memory of Kmoch. A memorial placque was placed on the house where he lived and spent most of his life. In recognition of his immense contribution to Czech band music, a three-day festival is held each June in Kolín. Participating bands from throughout the world convene each June in Kolín to pay tribute to Kmoch, the father of the Czech wind band.

Czech Plus Inventory of Kmoch Pieces

(This list is not all-inclusive)

Andulka Safarova (Annie, Foreman's Daughter)
Hoj, Marenko! (Hey, Marie!)
Jara Mládí
Jarabácek (Blue Jay)
Kmochove Pisne Smes ("The" Big Smes)
Kolíne, Kolíne! March
Kone, Vrany (Black Horses)
Muj Konicek (My Pony)
Muziky, Muziky (March)
Pilsener Pochod (Pilsen Polka)
Po Starodavnu (Old Fashioned Mazurka)
Pod Nasima Okny (Under Our Windows)
Pode Mlejnem (At the Mill)
Roztomila (Charmer)
Sli Panenky Silnici (Shy Maidens)
Sokol Nazdar! (Smes)
Vy Hvezdicky (Oh, You Stars!)
Zeleny Hajove! (Green Groves)

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