Bohuslav Martinů

Martinu was born in the Moravian town of Policka. Starting violin lessons at the of seven, he gave his first recital when he was 15. By the age of 10 he had written his first compositions; his juvenilia include songs, piano music, symphonic poems, string quartets, and ballets. In 1906, he entered Prague Conservatory, but reading and the theater diverted Martinu from his studies, and he was finally expelled for "incorrigible negligence" in 1910.

However, he continued composing. Exempted, as a teacher, from military service, Martinu produced many works during the World War I, including the patriotic cantata Czech Rhapsody (1918). Although this work and two ballets, Istar (1918-1921) and Who is the Most Powerful in the World? (1922-1923), gained favorable attention. Martinu felt the need for additional training. Returning to the Conservatory, he studied composition Josef Suk, later working in Paris with Albert Roussel, whose muscular, rhythmically vigorous music eventually influenced Martinu's own.

Martinu's music was well received in postwar Paris. Like many of his contemporaries, Martinu absorbed the influence of jazz, as evidenced in such works as the ballet La revue de cuisine (1927), which also incorporates South American rhythms, and the one-act opera Les larmes du couteau (The Tears of the Knife; 1928). In 1930, Martinu's constant desire to learn more led him to the music of Corelli, Vivaldi, and Bach, signaling a new concern with rhythmic continuity and contrapuntal technique.