The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Balatka, Hans

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BALATKA, Hans, musician, b. in Hoffnungsthal, Moravia, Austria, 5 March, 1836; d. in Chicago, Ill., 17 April, 1899. His parents were noted musicians. He studied law at Olmütz, and after finishing the course was engaged as tutor by a wealthy family in Vienna. While there he perfected his knowledge of harmony and composition under Proch and Sechter. He began his musical career as conductor for singing societies. In 1849 he started for America, settling in Milwaukee, Wis., where he founded the famous Musical Verein of Milwaukee, in 1851. He produced several oratorios and operas, and conducted musical festivals in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. In 1860 he became leader of the newly founded Philharmonic Society of Chicago, in 1867 director of the Germania Männerchor, and in the same year conducted a musical festival in Indianapolis. In 1868 he directed a musical festival at Chicago, which was pronounced the greatest that had been held in this country up to that time. He organized the Liederkranz Society in 1873, and later the Mozart Club and the Chicago Musical Verein. He was also director to the Arion des Western Musical Society and in 1879 he founded the Balatka Academy of Musical Art, in which his son Christian and his daughter Annie were teachers. He conducted the great Saengerfest in Chicago, with a chorus of 2,200, a mixed chorus of 1,200, and an orchestra of 150. Balatka's compositions, though few in number, reveal fine artistic taste and technical skill. Besides his addition of a suitable climax to Chopin's “Funeral March,” in place of its abrupt ending, he composed a grand aria for soprano with accompaniment, a piano quartette, a sonata, and several songs. He was the author of “A Condensed History of Music” (1888); “A History of Orchestra Music in Chicago,” and contributed musical articles regularly to the Chicago “Daheim.”