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Bohuslav Martinu

born: 1890-12-08
died: 1959-08-28
birthplace: Policka
diedplace: Liestal

Worldwide famous Czech composer, representative of modern music of the 1st half of 20th Century. His artistic development went through romanticism, impressionism, neoclassicism, expressionism, jazz inspiration combining it all in his own composing style.
He was born in the tower of the St Jacob's Cathedral in Policka as son of the shoemaker and tower-man. In his age of 7 he started to learn violin under local taylor and music teacher Josef Cernovsky. In 1906 he performed in public and received the scholarship from town council of Policka, thanks to which he could start studying the conservatory of Prague. He studied there violin (1906-1909), organ and composition (1909-1910), yet left the school unfinished. After being expelled (for "remediless inattentiveness") he started composing music very hard. Since 1915 he occasionally doubled asi violinist of Czech Philharmony. In 1916 he returned to his birthplace Policka to teach at the Town School. In 1918 he composed the cantata Czech Rhapsody to celebrate the end of World War I. Its premiere by Czech Philharmony was held in January 12th, 1919. In Summer 1919 he started a tour to England, France and Switzerland with the Czech National Theatre Orchestra. In 1920 he left Policka back for Prague where he got a permanent position of violin player. In 1922-23 he took private lessons of composition from Josef Suk.
In 1923 he left to Paris to study composition under Albert Roussel. He stayed there until 1940, earning his living as freelance composer. Most of summers he spent back in his birthplace Policka. After the start of World War II he left to USA. He went on composing there and taught music at prestigeous schools (University of Princeton among others). In 1952 he got the US Citizenship. He was worldwide reputable composer at that time; he got a number of prestigeous awards and scholarships for specific projects (e.g. from Guggenheim Foundation to write the opera Greek Passion-play). He lived in the USA and Europe in turns, leaving USA forever in 1956. He spent a year in Rome, then moved to Schonenberg, Switzerland to his friends. There he spent the last two years of his life, filled by intensive composing work.

Work: (selected works)
  • Concertant compositions
    • Cello Concerto , 1930
    • Concerto grosso , 1937
    • Doubleconcert for 2 string ochestras, piano and kettle drums , 1938
    • 5 piano concertos
  • More orchestral compositions as:
    • Sinfonietta Giocosa for piano and orchestra , 1940
    • Concerto Grosso , 1937
    • Sinfonietta La Jolla , 1950
    • 6 symphonies (1942-1953)
  • Chamber music (e.g.)
    • 6 violin quartets (1920-1946)
  • Songs and choruses - e.g.
    • Magical Nights (3 songs on Chinese lyrics for oprano and orchestra, Policka 1918)
    • Songs for Children (Policka 1931)
    • Czech Rhymes (6 female choirs, Paris 1931)
    • Czech Madrigals (8 madrigals for mixed choir, Vieux-Moulin 1939)
    • Mikes from the Mountains (cantata for solos, mixed choir and instrumental accompaniment, Schonenberg 1959)
  • Oratorios, cantatas, masses
    • Gilgames, oratorio 1954-55
    • Opening of Wells, cantata Cycle , 1955
  • Operas, scenic music
    • Spalicek, ballet , 1932
    • Soldier and Dancer, opera
    • Plays of Mary, opera, 1933-34
    • Julietta (Dreambook), opera, 1936-37
    • Marriage, opera , 1952
    • Mirandolina, opera , 1959
    • Greek Passions, opera , 1954
    • Ariadna, opera , 1958


Mala encyklopedie hudby (dr. Jar. Smolka; &kolektiv, Supraphon 1983)
Kniha o hudbe (V.Holzknecht a kol., Orbis 1964)


Serenade No.2 / 1932 (MP3) (I.Allegro, Independent Chamber Orchestra Boemia cond. Hynek Farkac, GZ 1992)
Czech Madrigals / 1939 (MP3) (6. Chceme my se, chceme; Kühn mixed orchestra, cond. Pavel Kühn, Supraphon 1999)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No.3 / 1944 (MP3) (4. Lento,Moderato,Allegro; Bohuslav Matousek violin, Petr Adamec piano, Supraphon 2000)

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Last update 2012-07-09