Bohuslav Martinû (1890-1959)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
I. Allegro moderato
III. Allegro poco moderato
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for college undergraduates
James Galway & Phillip Moll. Sonata for Flute and Piano, H.306. Sony Music, 2014. MP3.
PETTWAY, B. KEITH. “THE SOLO AND CHAMBER COMPOSITIONS FOR FLUTE BY BOHUSLAV MARTINU.” Order No. 8109889 The University of Southern Mississippi, 1980. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2016.
Bohuslav Martinû was born in 1890 in Polička in the modern-day Czech Republic. His father kept the church tower of St. James the Great (the same tower where Martinû was born), but Martinû was an ill child who could not climb the 193 steps, so his father carried him much of his life. They found great joy in singing folk songs and beating on small drums, which became the foundation of Martinû’s composition style. Martinû studied in Paris from 1923 to 1940, but since he did not speak French, he felt isolated and sought out Albert Roussel for composition lessons. He came to America in 1941, and began teaching at the Berkshire Music Center a year later. Martinû died in 1959 in Switzerland.
Martinû’s Sonata for Flute and Piano is highly regarded as a masterpiece, and therefore is his most performed and recorded composition. It is not known why the piece is called “First” Sonata since Martinû did not write another sonata for just flute and piano. He wrote the piece for Georges Laurent, solo flutist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the time, while on vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Martinû’s First Sonata provides clarity and simplicity but does not lack expression. The piece’s harmonic structure has been called “primitive” by some but it has created fluid transitions. One of the primary techniques Martinû uses in this composition is dove-tailing, which creates the sense of continuity throughout the work.