Bohuslav Martinu Biography (BBC)
Born in a church tower in the village of Polička in the Bohemian-Moravian highlands, Bohuslav Martinů began violin lessons aged 7 and was sent to the Prague Conservatory, funded by the Polička villagers.
In 1923 he moved to Paris to study, and stayed for 17 years, absorbing the avant-garde as well as jazz influences, the latter enshrined in the chamber work La revue de cuisine (1927). He fled Paris for the USA following the German invasion of 1940, taking up teaching posts at Tanglewood and at Princeton University. Settling in New York, he was championed by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Martinů's prolific output of over 400 works crosses all genres – from piano solo to opera, from chamber music to ballet and film music – and his unclassifiable style has contributed to his works falling into neglect. Among his masterpieces is the cantata The Epic of Gilgamesh (1955) and the operas Julietta (1938) and The Greek Passion (completed in 1959). After leaving Paris he felt the constant pull of his homeland, though decided not to return after Czechoslovakia came under Communist rule in 1948. Instead, he returned to Western Europe for his final years.
Profile © Edward Bhesania
Bohuslav Martinu Biography (Wikipedia)
Bohuslav Martinů (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. Martinů wrote 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. Martinů became a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and taught music in his home town. In 1923 Martinů left Czechoslovakia for Paris, and deliberately withdrew from the Romantic style in which he had been trained. In the 1930s he experimented with expressionism and constructivism, and became an admirer of current European technical developments, exemplified by his orchestral works Half-time and La Bagarre. He also adopted jazz idioms, for instance in his Kuchyňské revue ("Kitchen Revue").
In the early 1930s he found his main font for compositional style, the neo-classical as developed by Stravinsky. With this, he expanded to become a prolific composer, composing chamber, orchestral, choral and instrumental works at a fast rate. His use of the piano obbligato became his signature. His Concerto Grosso and the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani are among his best known works from this period. Among his operas, Julietta and The Greek Passion are considered the finest. He is compared with Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Central European ethnomusicology into his music. He continued to use Bohemian and Moravian folk melodies throughout his oeuvre, usually nursery rhymes—for instance in Otvírání studánek ("The Opening of the Wells").
Bohuslav Martinu Performances