Explore the works of

A preview of our collection of performances featuring the works of Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, known for carving out his unique musical voice through the adventurous blend of the folk influences of the greats before him with a neoclassical elegance.

About Martinů

Throughout time, some critics raised concern over the extraordinary volume of Bohuslav Martinů’s (1890 - 1959) musical output - which spans symphonies, operas, and chamber music -, believing he may have composed too much, too fast, and not well enough. However, the Czech composer of modern classical music’s oeuvre speaks for itself and not only dispels lingering doubts about his qualities as a composer but also speaks to his remarkable work ethic.

The son of a shoemaker, Martinů was born in the tower of the St. Jakub Church in Polička, a town in Bohemia. Martinů was a feeble boy, and very shy - but, when playing the violin, he transformed. Impressed by his skill, the townspeople raised money for his schooling, and in 1906 he left the countryside to set of for the Prague Conservatory to study the instrument.

However, Martinů did not excel as a student, showing little to no interest in the rigid pedagogy or the hours of practice required; instead, he longed to travel, learn, and seek inspiration in concerts, books, and living life. He was dismissed from the conservatory in 1910 for 'incorrigible negligence'.

Martinů's first triumph came in the shape of the celebratory cantata Czech Rhapsody, penned in the wake of the end of the first world war and Czechoslovakia's newly-minted independence. Czech Philharmonic's young conductor Václav Talich saw something special in Martinů, promoting him to full membership of the orchestra by 1920. But it would be elsewhere Martinů's compositional style would take a tremendous leap forward.

In Paris, the composer encountered not only the work of French composers such as Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky, but also other exciting genres of music - jazz and popular music - which would come to play a crucial role in his many creations. After a period of intense experimentation, Martinů settled on a neo-classical style that would come to define his legacy for years to come.

As an open opposer of Nazi ideology and the occupation of his native Czechoslovakia, Martinů found himself targeted by the Nazi regime, and was forced to leave Paris with his family in the early forties; following a period in exile in France, Spain, and Portugal, Martinů settled in New York in 1941. There, he taught at the Mannes College of Music and Princeton University, and, most importantly, composed some of his most iconic work - from 'Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra' to 'Fantaisies symphoniques'. He returned to France in the early fifties, where he live and worked until his death in 1959.

Through his eclectic and prolific career, Martinů created, with each stroke of the pen, new forms of music-making, by meshing folk music, jazz, neoclassicism, and modernist sensibilities. Despite having composed over 400 works in a wide range of genres, he always offered up something new - and his blazing creative streak can still be felt when hearing him many decades later.

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