Martinu – Rhapsody – Concerto for Viola

by Max Derrickson

Bohuslav Martinu   (1890-1959)

Rhapsody- Concerto for Viola
The birth of Bohuslav Martinu was a joyous occasion in the small Bohemian town of Policka (Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic).  His father was the fire watcher and bell ringer for St. James Church, and on the public holiday of December 8, 1890, young Bohuslav was born in the church’s small bell tower room to the clamor and festivity of ringing bells.


Martinu was a weak child and spent much of his first twelve years looking out over the town and country from his bird’s-eye perspective.  He later confided that this unique experience taught him that it was “not the small interests of people, the cares, the hurts or the joys… but space, which I always have in front of me.”  It was this perception that carried clearly into his musical compositions.


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In 1952 Martinu composed his Rhapsody – Concerto for viola.  It was well received.  Only a few years later, in Switzerland, he succumbed to cancer.  At his funeral, his eulogist described Martinu’s innumerable compositions in this way, and which is also a very apt characterization of the Rhapsody: “His music is the music of our times, because it expresses profound basic problems; it bears the stamp of individuality, which enables it to ring out among all the rest, and guarantees that he will not be forgotten.”