Bohuslav Martinu
8 December 1890 - 28 August 1959 (age 68)

Portrait of composer Martinu

Bohuslav Martinu was the most important Czech composer of the 20th century. At the beginning of World War II he went to the USA and became an American citizen in 1952. He produced almost 400 compositions.

- Family

- Works

- Career/timeline

- Quotes

- Links


Born: 8 December 1890, Polička, Bohemia, Czech Republic
Father: Ferdinand, shoemaker and fireman
Mother: Karolina
Siblings: two, brother František, sister Marie
Wife: Charlotte Quennehen, French, seamstress
Lover: Vítězslava Kaprálová, Czech, composer-conductor
Children: none
Died: 28 August 1959, age: 68, Liestal, Switzerland
Cause of death: cancer
Grave: Saint Michael's Cemetery, Policka, Czech Republic


His output was prolific, almost 400 compositions and includes:
- 6 Symphonies
- 5 Piano Concertos
- Concertos for violin, viola, cello, oboe and other instruments
- 14 Ballets
- 15 Operas
- Chamber music
- Piano solos
- vocal and choral works
for a more detailed list see here

Career/brief bio

Age 7: First violin lessons with local tailor.
Age 13: First composition - a string quartet 'The Three Riders'
Age 16: Entered the Prague Conservatory. Expelled two years later for 'incorrigible negligence'.
Age 24: Outbreak of World War 1. Excused from military service.
Age 25: Begins playing violin in the Czech Philharmonic.
Age 28: Composes cantata 'Ceska' (A Czech Rhapsody) to celebrate the end of the war and the declaration of indepenence of the Czech Republic.
Age 29: Tours with the National Theater orchestra to London, Paris, Geneva, Bern and Zurich.
Age 33 - 50: Lived in Paris as a freelance composer.
Age 34: Premiere of his first full length ballet 'Istar'.
Age 36: meets his future wife Charlotte Quennehen. Composes 'The Uproar' for full orchestra.
Age 37: completes his first opera 'The Soldier and the Dancer' and his jazz ballet 'The Kitchen Revue'.
Age 38: More international successes including performances in London, Paris, Siena, Boston USA, Pittsfield Massachusetts and Baden-Baden, Germany.
Age 51 - 63: With the outbreak of World War II he emigrated to America where he lived and worked until 1953.
Age 62: Is awarded American citizenship.
Age 63: Awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and moves to Nice.
Age 66: Composer in Residence at the American Academy in Rome.
Age 67: Moves permanently to Schönenberg near Basel in witzerland.
Age 68: Dies of cancer.

Fantasie  for Theremin, Oboe, Piano and String Quartet

La Jolla - Prague Chamber Orchestra

Symphony No 4 - Berliner Philharmoniker


"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."

"As a Czech I am in a practical sense a man without a country. It is one of few blessings left in life to find at least one place in the world where freedom exists for the artist and his art to survive. I cannot tell you what it means to have the privilege of being here in America with you." (Read or listen to this interview here)

Links, sources and where to go for more information

A Martinu site - a biography and list of works

The Bohuslav Martinu Foundation in Prague 


Answers.com a compilation of reference sites

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