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Bohuslav Martinu

Bohuslav Jan Martinu  (December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. Martinu wrote 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. Martinu became a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and taught music in his home town. In 1923 Martinu left Czechoslovakia for Paris, and deliberately withdrew from the Romantic style in which he had been trained. In the 1930s he experimented with expressionism and constructivism, and became an admirer of current European technical developments, exemplified by his orchestral works Half-time and La Bagarre. He also adopted jazz idioms, for instance in his La revue de cuisine ("Kitchen Revue").

In the early 1930s he found his main fount for compositional style, the neoclassicism as developed by Stravinsky. With this, he expanded to become a prolific composer, quickly composing chamber, orchestral, choral and instrumental works. His use of the piano obbligato became his signature. His Concerto Grosso and the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani are among his best known works from this period. Among his operas, Julietta and The Greek Passion are considered the finest. He is compared with Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Central European ethnomusicology into his music. He continued to use Bohemian and Moravian folk melodies throughout his oeuvre, usually nursery rhymes—for instance in Otvírání studánek ("The Opening of the Wells").

His symphonic career began when he emigrated to the United States in 1941, fleeing the German invasion of France, to compose his six symphonies, which were performed by all the major US orchestras. Eventually Bohuslav Martinu returned to live in Europe for two years starting in 1953, then was back in New York until returning to Europe for good in May 1956. He died in Switzerland in August 1959.



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