Opus Osm Minutka: 5 Fast Facts- Martinů & Paris


Chief Conductor/Music Director Emmanuel Villaume and the Prague Philharmonia-PKF present an evening of French composers, and Martinů, of course, Dec 20.

Emmanuel Villaume, chief conductor and music director of the Prague Philharmonia – PKF, explains Martinů’s ‘French Connection,’ and how to listen for it in his music.

Opus Osm’s Minutka (″Little Minute″)
5 Fast Facts about Martinů, by Conductor Emmanuel Villaume

1 As you know, Martinů spent many years (1923-1941) in France.

Emmanuel Villaume

Emmanuel Villaume

He was a student of Albert Roussel (1869-1937) and a friend of many French composers we are presenting this season, such as Ravel, Debussy, and even Maurice Emmanuel. So when we started building the season for Prague Philharmonia, Martinů was an obvious entry into the connection between Czech music and French music.

2 I ‘knew’ Martinů …

through my musicological studies and I was always intrigued by his music. … This is of one of the joys of being a music director – you can program not only music that you know very well and love, but you can also program music that you are interested in and that you never hear at other concerts.

3 There is definitely modernity in Martinů which is very interesting, but …

there’s something connected to emotions, sentiments, and political ideas at the same time. That is a type of modernity that has been neglected in the last years but needs to come into the light and get the respect it deserves.

4 Martinů got a sense of form, clarity, orchestration, and a clear approach to musical development from Roussel.

Those are the things that were very important to Roussel. He was also a teacher who was open to various expressions among his students and would let them find their own voices.



So I think Roussel definitely helped Martinů find his voice, but also gave him this sense of orchestration and a certain natural clarity in the development that is a characteristic of his music.

5 And Martinů ‘translated the French’ into his Czech.

Martinů distanced himself from the French scene when he moved to the United States and then experimented in ways that were very different – like Ravel, he was fascinated by jazz, for instance.

But the way Martinů is inserting jazz into his music is slightly different than Ravel or Gershwin.

Yet, even after he left France there definitely was something in the teaching of Roussel that gave Martinů’s music some characteristics and central elements of the French school.

Martinu has coffee

Imagine the conversation around these tables! At back towards right, Martinů, with composers Harsányi, Auric, Bernac, Mihalovici, Poulenc, (Mdme Čerepninová), Tansman, (Charlotte Martinů), Čerepnin, Paris, May 15, 1940.

Conductor Villaume leads the Prague Philharmonia-PKF in concert Sun, Dec 20, 2015 with works by Martinů, Ravel, Emmanuel, and Debussy, at The Rudolfinum, 7:30 pm.

Opus Osm e-mail interview, transcribed by Jana Rejhonová, PKF public relations manager; edited by Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor.

Photo Credits: Top: Morris Media; Villaume, PKF; Roussel, Wikipedia; Martinů with friends, Bohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička

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