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Bohuslav Martinů

 1890 - 1959Bohuslav Martinu Photo: www.booseyprints.com

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Bohuslav Martinu was the leading Czech composer of mid-20th century * Born and grew up in room at top of church tower in village of Policka, a perspective that coloured his later life * Studied violin at Prague Conservatoire but dismissed for 'incorrigible negligence' * Toured with Czech Philharmonic and discovered music of Debussy * Left Prague to study with Roussel in Paris * Joined milieu of 1920s Parisian culture and was influenced by Stravinsky, jazz and Les Six * In 1930s adopted neoclassical idiom and explored concerto grosso forms * Key works from period included surreal opera Julietta and Double Concerto, written on eve of Munich Agreement which cut him off from homeland * Travelled to USA in 1940 and wrote for leading American orchestras in the following decade * Anticipated return to Prague but fall of Czechoslovakia to communists in 1948 made him a permanent exile * Most ambitious music of 1950s, such as Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No.6), employed dreamlike neo-impressionist colour and anticipated aleatoric soundworld * Last works, drawing greatly on Moravian folk traditions, written at home of Paul Sacher in Switzerland

Works by Bohuslav Martinu include:
Double Concerto (1938) for two string orchestras, piano and timpani
Symphonies 1-6 (1942-46 / 1953) for orchestra
Sinfonietta la Jolla (1950) for chamber orchestra
The Marriage (1952) Comic opera in two acts


"The artist is always searching for the meaning of life, his own and that of mankind, searching for truth. A system of uncertainty has entered our daily life. The pressures of mechanisation and uniformity to which it is subject call for protest and the artist has only one means of expressing this, by music." — Bohuslav Martinu

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