Martinu, Bohuslav

Martinů, Bohuslav

(bô`ho͝osläf mär`tĭno͞o), 1890–1959, Czech composer; studied at the Prague Conservatory. He played the violin (1918–23) in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Martinů lived in Prague from 1907 to 1923, in Paris from 1923 to 1940 and, fleeing the Nazis, moved to the United States in 1941. After 1946 he divided his time among Prague, Switzerland, and the United States, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1952. Extremely prolific, he was both analytical and intuitive in his composing style. Outstanding among his works are the operas The Miracle of Our Lady (1935) and Julietta (1938), a Concerto Grosso (1938), Symphony No. 6 (Fantaisies Symphoniques, 1955), Memorial to Lidice (1943) for orchestra, and a number of powerful quartets.


See biography by B. Large (1975).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Martinů, Bohuslav


Born Dec. 8, 1890, in Policka, Bohemia; died Aug. 28, 1959, in Liestal, near Basel. Czech composer and important figure in music.

From 1906 to 1912, Martinu studied violin and organ at the Prague Conservatory. He continued his training at the conservatory’s Advanced School in 1922 and 1923, studying there under J. Suk. In 1923 and 1924 he studied with A. Roussel in Paris. Between 1923 and 1940, Martinu lived in France, Italy, and Switzerland, yet at the same time he retained ties with his homeland. (In 1931 he became a member of the Czech Academy of Arts.) In 1941 he moved to the United States, where he taught composition at Princeton University.

Martinu’s work is very diverse in terms of both genre and musical language. Displaying masterful composition technique, the composer combined the traditions of A. Dvorak and J. Suk with some of the methods of French impressionism, the anti-romantic traditions of A. Honegger, and the rhythmic innovations of I. F. Stravinsky. Martinu was one of the leading Czech composers of the 20th century. His work is marked by fully developed polyphony, rhythmic sharpness, and elements of humor. In his works of the 1940’s and 1950’s, national elements became more pronounced and deep contemplative moods and a strongly dramatic quality appeared (patriotic work Memorial to Lidice, 1943).

Martinu wrote 13 operas (Juliette, 1938; Ariadne, 1958), ten ballets (Revolt, 1925; Judgment of Paris, 1935), symphonic works (six symphonies), concerti with orchestra, chamber music (six string quartets), vocal compositions, and piano pieces.


1938-1945. Prague, 1947.
Domov, hudba, a svet. Prague, 1966.


Šafránek, M. B. Martinu: Šivot a dÍlo. Prague, 1961.
Martinu, Ch. Muj šivot s Bohuslavem Martinu. Prague, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Martinu, Bohuslav. Chamber Music for 6-9 Instruments I.