Jean Martinon

French orchestra conductor and composer (1910, Lyon – 1976, Paris)

Distinguished orchestra conductor, Jean Martinon devoted most of his career to the music chamber, for which he was an ambassador throughout the entire world.

Jean Martinon began his musical education in Lyon, his natal city where he studied the violin under Maurice Faudray. From 1926, he completed his education in Paris with Jean Boucherit (violin), Albert Roussel, Max d’Ollones and Vincent d’Indy (composition), following with Roger Desormière and Charles Münch (orchestra conducting). After a series of concerts as a violinist outside of Paris and abroad, he conducted his first pieces just before the beginning of the Second World War. He was imprisoned for two years and used that time exclusively for composing. After the Liberation of France, he picked up on orchestra conducting.

In Bordeaux he got his first office and stayed an assistant for Charles Münch at the Société des Concerts of the Conservatoire. From 1946, he got one prestigious office after another and became successively the first conductor associate at the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the first conductor associate at the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (1947), the president orchestra conductor for the Concerts Lamoureux (1951), the first conductor at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (1958), the music CEO for Dusseldorf (1959), the artistic director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1963), the Orchestre National de France (1968) and the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague (1974) before he was appointed a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire in 1975.

Many of his recordings count several complete works like the ones of Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Camille Saint-Saëns. Jean Martinon directed as well his own pieces as he did the ones of his contemporaries. Among them, we can find Henry Barraud, Jacques Ibert, Hans Werner Henze, Marius Constant… His repertoire includes an opera, four symphonies, two concertos for violin, one concerto for cello, two quartets and Psaume 136 ou Chant des Captifs for choir and piano.

Five landmark dates in the life of Jean Martinon

1934: started to perform on the radio as soloist violinist and composed his Symphonie n°1.

1943: he received the Paris Grand Prix de Musique for his Psaume 136, composed in the stalag where he was held prisoner.

1948: he received the Prix Bartok for his first strings quartet.

1968: he was appointed director at Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française (Orchestre National de France).

1975: he composed his Suite enchaînée, for eleven strings and harpsichord, his last piece.

Radio France Documentation biography, December 2015.