Bohuslav Martinu

Bohuslav Martinu - one of the truly bright lights of 20th Century Classical Music.

Jakub Hrusa And The Philharmonic Orchestra Of Radio France Play Music Of Roussel And Martinu – 2015 – Past Daily Mid-Week Concert

Bohuslav Martinu
Bohuslav Martinu – one of the truly bright lights of 20th Century Classical Music.

Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France – Jakub Hrusa – January 8, 2015 – Radio France Musique –

Back over to Paris this week for a concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France conducted by Jakub Hrusa and featuring music of Bohuslav Martinu and Albert Roussel with an opening piece, Domains for solo clarinet by Pierre Boulez, who passed away three days earlier. The soloist for that tribute to the great composer as well as much loved music director and conductor is Nicolas Baldeyrou, Clarinet.

The concert is then turned over to the music of Bohuslav Martinu and Albert Roussel. Beginning with Martinu’s Double Concerrto for two String Orchestra, piano and Tympani. It’s followed by Bacchus et Ariane suite Number 2 by Albert Roussel. And then back over to Martinu for a performance of La Bagarre and the concert concludes with a performance of Roussel’s Symphony Number 3.

In 1923, Bohuslav Martinu received a small scholarship from the Czechoslovak Ministry of Education and departed for Paris. He sought out Albert Roussel, whose individualistic style he respected, and began a series of informal lessons with him. Roussel would teach Martinů until his death in 1937 by helping him focus and bring order to his compositions, rather than instructing him in a specific style. During his first years in Paris, Martinů incorporated many of the trends at the time, including jazz, neoclassicism, and surrealism. He was particularly attracted to Stravinsky, whose novel, angular, propulsive rhythms and sonorities reflected the industrial revolution, sports events and motorised transportation. Ballets were his favorite medium for experimentation, including The Revolt (1925), The Butterfly That Stamped (1926), Le raid merveilleux (1927), La revue de cuisine (1927), and Les larmes du couteau (1928). Martinů found friends in the Czechoslovak artistic community in Paris and would always retain close ties to his homeland, frequently returning during the summer. He continued to look to his Bohemian and Moravian roots for musical ideas. His best-known work from this time is the ballet Špalíček (1932–33), which incorporates Czech folk tunes and nursery rhymes.

The prime leader of new symphonic music in Paris at this time was Serge Koussevitzsky, who presented the biannual Concerts Koussevitzsky (1921–29). He became the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1924, but still returned to Paris each summer to conduct his Concerts. In 1927, Martinů happened to see him at a café, introduced himself, and gave him the score of a symphonic triptych, La bagarre, that was inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s recent landing. The maestro was impressed, and scheduled its premiere with the Boston Symphony in November 1927.

By 1930, Martinů had withdrawn from his seven years of experimentation to settle on a neo-classical style. In 1932, he won the Coolidge prize for the best of 145 chamber music works for his String Sextet with Orchestra. This was performed by Koussevitzsky with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1932. Martinu finished his opera Julietta in 1936; this was based upon a surrealistic play by Georges Neveux that he had seen in 1927. Its premiere was given in Prague under Václav Talich on 14 March 1938.

During the turbulent times confronting Czechoslovakia by the Hitler regime of Nazi Germany over the issue of Sudetenland, Martinů composed one of his greatest works, the Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano and timpani. It was finished just a few days before the Munich Agreement was sealed September 1938.

By temperament Albert Roussel was predominantly a classicist. While his early work was strongly influenced by impressionism in music, he eventually arrived at a personal style which was more formal in design, with a strong rhythmic drive, and with a more distinct affinity for functional tonality than is found in the work of his more famous contemporaries Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Stravinsky.

His most important works were the ballets Le festin de l’araignée, Bacchus et Ariane, and Aeneas and the four symphonies, of which the Third in G minor, and the Fourth in A major, are highly regarded and epitomize his mature neoclassical style. His other works include numerous ballets, orchestral suites, a piano concerto, a concertino for cello and orchestra, a psalm setting for chorus and orchestra, incidental music for the theatre, and much chamber music, solo piano music, and songs.

So there you have it – now enjoy the concert.

Albert Roussel
Albert Roussel

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