The Kennedy Center

Bohuslav Martinu


Czechoslovakian composer Bohuslav Martinu has only recently begun to achieve the attention his prolific output deserves.  Born in the village of Policka, on December 8, 1890, he began his musical career as a violinist with the Czech Philharmonic.  After being dismissed from the Prague conservatory for poor attention to his studies.he resumed his composition studies in 1922 with Josef Suk in Prague. In 1923 he moved to Paris and continued composition studies with Albert Roussel. There he became a member of the renowned Parisian avant-garde artistic community which created such a vast outpouring of new and innovative works of music, literature and painting during the 20's and 30's.

With the threat of the German occupation of Paris in 1940 Martinu moved to the United States with his french-born wife. He  survived the war years teaching and composing, assisted by annual commissions from Serge Koussevitsky, then conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  In 1946 he returned briefly to Prague to teach at the Conservatory there, but returned to the USA when political events threatened his tenure.  From 1948 to 1956 he taught composition at the Mannes College of Music in New York City. In 1956 he moved with his wife to Switzerland, where he died on August 28th, 1959.

Martinu was a prolific, perhaps even compulsive composer, who left behind over 400 published works, for virtually every genre - instrumental concertos and sonatas, symphonies, ballets, choral works, operas, and many works of chamber music. He was influenced early on by Ravel, Debussy, and Stravinsky. His work has been performed more often in recent years, especially his six symphonies, two cello concertos, five piano concertos, seven string quartets, and his monumental Oratorio, "Gilgamesh", based on a saga of ancient Babylon.
Bohuslav Martinu


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