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Bohuslav Martinů 1890 - 1959

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Martinu was the leading Czech composer of the mid-20th century. Born and brought up in a room at the top of a church tower (a perspective that he claimed coloured his later life!), and dismissed from the Prague Conservatoire for 'incorrigible negligence', he then discovered the music of Debussy, moved swiftly to France & joined the 1920s Parisian culture, wherein he was influenced by Stravinsky and Les Six; after flirting with jazz, he first formed a solid neo-classicist style, but then increasingly explored the fantastical as years went on.

The Munich Agreement of 1938 cut him off from his homeland, and in 1940 he escaped from France to the USA and wrote for leading American orchestras. He anticipated a return to Prague, but the fall of Czechoslovakia to communism in 1948 made him a permanent exile.

"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

Key works from the 1930s include the surreal opera Julietta and the emotionally powerful Double Concerto. The 1950s saw him employing dreamlike neo-impressionist colour & anticipating an aleatoric soundworld in his most ambitious music (e.g. Fantaisies symphoniques - Symphony No.6), before drawing nostalgically on Moravian folk traditions in his final works.

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