Zdeněk Lukáš was one of the most important Czech composers of the latter half of the 20th century. The list of his works contains 354 items and encompasses a variety of musical genres. He was not only a composer, but also a teacher and choirmaster. Having graduated from a teacher’s college, he initially worked as an elementary school teacher. Later he worked for Czechoslovak Radio in Pilsen, where in 1954 he founded the choir Česká píseň (Czech Song), which is still active today. During the 20 years that he led the choir, Lukáš developed a strong affinity for vocal music. While working in radio, he met his great model as a composer, Miloslav Kabeláč. For many years Lukáš consulted on his ideas with Kabeláč, something he regarded as being of major importance to his compositional development, being otherwise self taught. Zdeněk Lukáš finally settled down in Prague, where he studied harmony and counterpoint at the conservatoire in the early 1970s, and from 1975 he was the choirmaster for the women’s choir of the Czechoslovak State Song and Dance Ensemble. From 1979 until the end of his life he was a freelance musician, devoting himself solely to composing. In 1996 he joined with Sylvie Bodorová, Luboš Fišer, and Otmar Mácha in an artistic collective called Quattro, which organised concerts and recordings. Among Zdeněk Lukáš’s works, his choral music and vocal works with instrumental accompaniment are of the greatest importance and are most frequently performed. He also wrote seven symphonies, the operas Falkenštejn and Measure for Measure, a number of concertos, and chamber music. Lukáš’s music is imbued with inspiration from folklore. He went through a period of experimentation with modern compositional techniques, and he arrived at a synthesis typified mainly by a foundation in modality and by shifting metrical and rhythmic elements.
One of Zdeněk Lukáš’s best-known vocal compositions is the Missa brevis, Op. 176. He wrote it in the autumn of 1982 for a three-part women’s choir and baritone solo – exactly what was commissioned by the choirmaster Elfi Zechner from Heiler in what was then West Germany. The work was intended for her church choir and its capable singing organist. Lukáš encoded into the music a number of colourful metrical and rhythmic curiosities, and the tempos chosen for some of the movements are contrary to tradition; the slowest movement is the conclusion of the entire work, the Agnus Dei. Besides the original version, there is also an arrangement of the Missa brevis for mixed choir realised by the choirmaster Miroslav Košler with the composer’s consent.