Martinů in His Time - The Recorded Legacy: A Biographical Survey of the Early Recordings.
The Friends presented a lecture MARTINŮ IN HIS TIME – THE RECORDED LEGACY on 7th March in the Embassy of Slovakia, London, given by Patrick Lambert, a musicologist with a particular interest in the life and works of the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959), generally considered to be the fourth most important Czech composer after Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček, though much of his life was spent abroad.
Photograph, Patrick Lambert, left, at the lecture in March with the composer and musicolgist Karel Janovický. Copyright FoCH
Martinů was born in Polička, a small town close to the border between Bohemia and Moravia, and spent the first eleven years of his life entirely in a tiny room at the top of the church tower there, as his father had taken on the duties of fire-watching, ringing the bells and tending the clock.
The young Martinů went to Prague as a music student but soon gave up the violin in favour of composing. After initial success as a composer he went to France and never returned to live in Czechoslovakia, though he continued to have many contacts with Czech musicians and conductors.
Images above from left: Martinů in middle age (courtesy of publisher), inspecting a record in the USA (©BMC Polička), the tower in Polička where he was born (©Petr1888).
In 1940 he left France for America as he was on a Nazi blacklist and his compositions, especially five symphonies composed for American orchestras, had great success there. After the War he returned to France but did not go back to Czechoslovakia, initially because of a serious accident but later because of the Communist coup there. His music was not played in Czechoslovakia at the height of Stalinism but he continued to compose until his death in Switzerland in 1959.
Patrick Lambert illustrated his talk with a number of extracts from recordings of Martinů’s works made during his lifetime, mostly recordings made in France and America, as well as in Czechoslovakia.
The event was organised with the cooperation of the Embassy of Slovakia.