Bohuslav Martinu

Czech composer (Policka, 1890 - Liestal, 1959)

Despite the lack of discipline during his musical studies, Martinu remains a gifted musician who becomes famous in Europe thanks to the numerous interpretations of his chamber music, ballets and symphonic works. He synthetizes Czech dance stylisation with adaptations of Czech or Slovak themes, sometimes punctuated by impressionist nuances.

Bohuslav Martinu began his musical studies at 7 years old with the local tailor. After working at the Prague Conservatory, he entered in 1909 the capital’s organ school, which he was dismissed a year later. When World War I interrupt his studies, he returned to the Prague Conservatory in Joseph Suk's class, but did not obtain his diploma. In 1920, he joined as second violin the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra which was only created two years earlier. Successfully obtaining a scholarship, he settled in Paris and took composition lessons with Albert Roussel. World War II prompted him to leave for Portugal first and then the United States. In 1948, he is appointed professor at Princeton University. Unable to return to his native land, he settled in the South of France, then in Switzerland, where he died of cancer in 1959.

Mastering with perfection the modern counterpoint, reclaiming the heritage of the English madrigal and the baroque concerto grosso, touched by French music, Martinu leaves a large catalogue of very diverse works.

Five landmark dates in the life of Bohuslav Martinu:

1932: The String Sextet wins the Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge Award

1948-1951: Teaches music at Princeton

1957: Winner of the Rome Prize for musical composition.

1979: His remains are transferred from Schönenberg, Switzerland, to Policka, his hometown.

1990: Celebration of the centenary of Martinu's birth in Czechoslovakia

Six key works by Bohuslav Martinu:

1935: Concerto for harpsichord and chamber orchestra

1938: Julietta (The key to Dreams)

1940: Creation in Paris of his first sonata for cello and piano by Pierre Fournier.

1942: Variations on a theme by Rossini for cello and piano

1949: Three Czech dances for two pianos

1954: Mirandolina, comic opera in 3 acts