The composer, conductor and flutist Petr Kotík (1942, Prague) was educated in Prague and Vienna. While at the Prague Conservatory, he founded the new music group Musica viva pragensis (1961-64) and after returning from his studies at the Vienna Academy, the QUaX Ensemble (1969-69). In 1970, shortly after his arrival in the U.S., he founded the S.E.M. Ensemble, which expanded in 1992 into The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble. Since the early 1960s, Kotík has been active mainly as a chamber musician and soloist. In 1992 his efforts as a performer turned to working with orchestra and that is when his conducting career started. The turning point was a concert with the 86-piece Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble at Carnegie Hall with David Tudor as soloist. Kotík conducted the premiere of the complete version of Atlas Eclipticalis by John Cage with Tudor performing Winter Music. This concert was followed by major orchestra concerts in New York, Berlin, Prague, Ostrava, Warsaw and Tokyo, among others. Kotík also conducted several opera productions (Manhattan Book of Dead, by David First, Gilgamesh, by Steven Dickman, both at La MaMa Theater; and Der Kaiser von Atlantis, by Victor Ullmann, at Miller Theater). In 1999-2005, Kotík initiated performances of compositions for three orchestras with concerts in Ostrava, Prague, Berlin, and Warsaw. The programs included Gruppen by Karlheinz Stockhausen as well as works by Christian Wolff, Olga Neuwirth, Phill Niblock, Petr Kotík, Earle Brown, Alvin Lucier, and Martin Smolka; most of the pieces commissioned by Kotík. Among the best known compositions by Kotík are Music for 3 in Memoriam Jan Rychlík (1964), There is Singularly Nothing on a text by Gertrude Stein (1971-73), Many Many Women on a text by Gertrude Stein (1975-78), Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking on a text by R. Buckminster Fuller, (1978-80), Letters to Olga on a text by Václav Havel (1989-91), Music in Two Movements for orchestra (1998-2002), Variations for 3 Orchestras (2003-05) and String Quartet No. 1 “Erinnerungen an Jan” (2007-09). His percussion trio In Four Parts (2009) was performed numerous times in Europe and the U.S. Kotík’s discography as a conductor includes John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis and Concert for Piano and Orchestra; John Cage’s 103 and Atlas Eclipticalis, The Turfan For Samuel Beckett by Morton Feldman, Music of Somei Satoh with the Janáček Philharmonic, and orchestra compositions by Roscoe Mitchell and Muhal Richard Abrams. Other important releases include: In Four Parts and The Entire Musical Work of Marcel Duchamp. Another release should be mentioned: Treatise by Cornelius Cardew – a 2-hour live performance by the QUaX Ensemble, live recorded in Prague in 1967 on a 2-CD set by Mode Records, 2009, New York, NY.
Following its premiere at Lincoln Center in May 1998, the musicologist and composer Kyle Gann made the following comment on Fragment in his review for the Village Voice: “Most of Kotík’s music is highly linear, but Fragment diffracted his usual lines of parallel fifths into pointillist dots of sonority. As always, the fifths allowed for splashes of noble consonance – including bits of American-sounding brass fanfares… – but also tense clashes of conflicting lines. Adagio and allegro penetrated each other; the basses would pound out a massive descending scale, then suddenly the clamor would vanish, leaving a plaintive trumpet duo, like a muted message of pain in an alien language… Nothing I’ve heard an orchestra do in years has been more original, more surprising, and more exquisitely etched at the same time.“