The composer and violinist Bohuslav Martinu was born in a church bell tower at Policka on the Bohemian-Moravian border on 8 December 1890. His father was the town's bell ringer and watchman. Bohuslav studied violin briefly at the conservatoire in Prague before being dismissed for failing his exams, and then continued his studies privately. He was a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic, and studied briefly with Josef Suk.
In 1923 he moved to Paris and studied with Albert Roussel. The German invasion of France in World War II drove him to the USA in 1941, where he settled in New York. It took him a while to get used to New York life, but he wrote a lot of music there, including his six symphonies, and was a teacher at the Mannes College of Music. His students included Alan Hovhaness, Jan Novák and Burt Bacharach.
At the end of his life he moved to Switzerland, and died in Liestal on 28 August 1959, leaving nearly four hundred works, including the oratorio The Epic of Gilgamesh (based on the Babylonian epic) and the opera The Greek Passion (based on the novel by Kazantzakis). His music was influenced by jazz, Czech folk music, Bach, Corelli, Debussy, Stravinsky and Vivaldi.
A selection of M&V articles about Bohuslav Martinu
Ensemble. Beautifully Captured - Mike Wheeler listens to the Mavron Quartet
Ensemble. Special Musical Connections - Bill Newman attends a fundraising concert for the Raphael Sommer Foundation
Ensemble. Achingly Beautiful - Vivaldi's 'La verità in cimento' at Garsington Opera, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
Ensemble. Christ Re-Crucified - Giuseppe Pennisi was at the Italian première of Bohuslav Martinu's Greek Passion
Ensemble. Invigorating Performance - The London Mozart Trio impresses Mike Wheeler
Profile. With Perfection in Mind - Bill Newman talks to all four members of the Wihan Quartet
CD Spotlight. Sterling Playing - Wendy Warner's interpretations of Popper and Piatigorsky, heard by Howard Smith. '... sovereign music-making deserving of the highest accolades.'
Ensemble. Another Treat - Martinu's 'Mirandolina' at Garsington Opera, by Roderic Dunnett
CD Spotlight. Consistently Refined - Debussy transcriptions, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... these alternatives are never less than striking ...'
Record Box. Full and Resonant - Violin concertos by Bohuslav Martinu, reviewed by Patric Standford
Record Box. Singing Qualities - Jennifer Koh plays Szymanowski, Martinu and Bartók, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Provocations - Alistair Hinton and Chad Wozniak discuss Patric Standford's recent 'Provocative Thoughts'
Record box. The perceptive oboe - Nancy Ambrose King plays oboe concertos, reviewed by Basil Ramsey
Ensemble. A dazzling mix - Bohuslav Martinu's 'The Greek Passion' at London's Covent Garden, reviewed by Robert Hugill
CD Spotlight. Holstian time-warp - Martinu from the quartet bearing his name, by Roderic Dunnett. '... played with appealing clarity.'
Ensemble. Hour of Magic - Malcolm Miller is enthralled by seldom-heard East European music
CD Spotlight. Imagination and strength - The Gilgamesh epic, recounted by Robert Anderson. '... Zdenek Kosler admirably explores the depth of meaning Martinu revealed in the ancient tale ...'