Bohuslav Martinů


Bohuslav Martinů, who was born in Polička on the Bohemian-Moravian border in 1890, was one of the 20th century’s most prolific composers. He created an oeuvre of almost 400 works, with 16 operas, 15 ballets, six symphonies, numerous solo concertos and chamber music. However, his route to success was not a straightforward one ...

Bohuslav Martinů was expelled from the Prague conservatory twice as a student: the first time because he had played in a public concert contrary to the strict regulations; the second time for “incorrigible negligence”. The final expulsion had a liberating effect on him, resulting in the composition of countless songs and piano pieces as well as several large-scale orchestral works. To earn a living, Martinů improved his violin technique and received his diploma at the second attempt. From 1913, he played in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. After the premiere of his [Czech Rhapsody], the 28-year-old was hailed as one of his country’s greatest musical hopes. After the war, Martinů – as a composer who had not studied composition – attended the masterclass of Josef Suk. He then continued his training under Albert Roussel in Paris. He remained in the French capital for almost two decades with growing success. As Martinů was hunted by the National Socialists after the outbreak of war due to his close relationship with the Czechoslovakian government in exile, he fled to the USA via Spain and Portugal in 1941. Here, he worked as a professor of composition in Massachusetts, at Princeton University and at the Mannes College of Music in New York. He then returned to Europe and lived in various countries – but he was never able to return to his homeland: the composer died of cancer in exile in Switzerland on 28 August 1959.


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