The Artistic Biography, Activities and Musical Legacy of The Military Musician Leopold Kohout in Prešov, 1883–1908
The article presents new data about the life and compositional career of the military bandleader, Leopold Kohout (1857–1918). Kohout was active in the eastern part of the Hungarian Kingdom, in Prešov, home of the 67th infantry regiment (whose staff command was in Vienna) of the armed forces of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy between the years 1883 and 1908.
Kohout was born on 24th July, 1857 in the town of Jaroměř, eastern Bohemia. From 1869 he studied organ at The Prague Organ School. He joined the military in 1874, in 1882 becoming bandleader of the 67th infantry regiment which was from 1883–1908 positioned in Prešov. This period also corresponds with the time of Kohout’s professional pursuits in the town. Before and during the 1st World War (more precisely, from late 1910) he lived in Karviná, northern Moravia, where he also died. The biographical data included in the article were obtained and verified in the course of research in the Österreichische Staatsarchiv, Kriegsarchiv Wien, Militärkapellmeister-Pensionsverein (Austrian State Archives, Vienna Military Archives, Veterans’ Association of Military Bandleaders, in Vienna).
Prešov, which was one of seven military bases in Slovakia, had two military bands operating in town. The artistic activities of military musicians and their participation in concert productions in Prešov at that time were closely connected with civic music productions organized by the Széchényi Guild (Széchényikör), and are now documented only thanks to surviving evidence of their links with the Guild. Actual co-operation between the military bandleader and the Guild started in 1884. In the course of the 1880s and 1890s, the military band performed at most (though not all) concerts of the Széchényi Guild.
Leopold Kohout was an excellent violin and piano player (playing solo and chamber ensemble parts). With his orchestra, he presented works by prominent composers of the early Romantic and Neo-Romantic eras, as well as music by contemporary military bandleaders and composers of light music, keeping abreast with the current trends in musical production.
The present paper also contains a general reflection on the character of musical life in major towns and cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in late 19th century, which was significantly influenced and dynamized by the presence of military orchestras. The most relevant element of the present research consists in drawing up the first tentative (and still inevitably fragmentary) catalogue of the military bandleader’s compositions.
There, we have gathered credible evidence of Kohout’s authorship of three orchestral overtures, four pieces of dance music, an opera, a sacred composition, five arrangements of music by other composers, five salon songs, and a regimental march.