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 Bohuslav Martinu

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Bohuslav Martinu

  • Birth 8 Dec 1890 Policka, Okres Svitavy, Pardubicky (Pardubice), Czech Republic
  • Death 28 Aug 1959 Liestal, Bezirk Liestal, Basel-Landschaft, Switzerland
  • Burial Policka, Okres Svitavy, Pardubicky (Pardubice), Czech Republic
  • Memorial ID 22558485

Composer. An outstanding Czech musician of the 1900s. His most characteristic music blended French Neoclassical form with themes and folk idioms of his homeland. He is particularly noted for his symphonic and chamber works. A native of the Bohemian village of Policka, Martinu was born and raised in the tower of St. James Church, where his father worked as a bell-ringer and watchman. He took violin lessons as a child and in 1906 the people of Policka raised funds to send him to the Prague Conservatory, where he was eventually expelled for "incorrigible negligence". From 1915 to 1922 he was a violinist with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, a period that also saw his earliest successes as a composer, with the "Czech Rhapsody" for chorus (1919) and the ballet "Istar" (1922). Unsatisfied with his technique, he studied privately with composer Joseph Suk and in 1923 he moved to Paris to work with Albert Roussel; he lived there 17 years and married a Frenchwoman, Charlotte Quennehen, in 1931. Initially influenced by Debussy, he later flirted with jazz and the rhythmic innovations of Stravinsky. Homesickness and Europe's deteriorating political situation of the 1930s forged the music of Martinu's mature period, which reflected a Czech nationalist spirit while retaining a cosmopolitan style. The beginning of Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia inspired one of his most powerful works, the "Double Concerto" for two string orchestras, piano and timpani (1938). When Paris fell to the Nazis he escaped to the United States via Spain and Portugal, arriving in 1941. Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony and a dedicated champion of new music, took a keen interest in Martinu and commissioned no less than five symphonies from him between 1941 and 1945; these works led Ernest Ansermet to call Martinu "the greatest symphonist of the 20th Century". (His sixth and final symphony, the "Fantaisies symphoniques", was completed in 1953). After the war he was offered a professorship at Prague Conservatory, but his hopes of returning to his country were dashed by the Communist takeover of 1948. Instead he taught at Princeton University and at the American Academy of Music in Rome, becoming a US Citizen in 1952. From 1957 until his death he lived in Liestal, Switzerland under the patronage of conductor Paul Sacher. At his request he was originally buried on the grounds of Sacher's estate, Schonenberg, near Pratteln. His remains were brought back to Policka on the 20th anniversary of his death. Martinu wrote prolifically in all genres, over 400 works in all. They include the operas "The Miracle of Our Lady" (1935) and "Julietta" (1938), the "Memorial to Lidice" (1943) for orchestra, five Piano Concertos, two Violin Concertos, and seven String Quartets. One of the Czech Republic's finest orchestras is named the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic in his honor.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 29 Oct 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22558485
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Bohuslav Martinu (8 Dec 1890–28 Aug 1959), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22558485, citing Saint Michael's Cemetery, Policka, Okres Svitavy, Pardubicky (Pardubice), Czech Republic ; Maintained by Find A Grave .