Martinon, Jean

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Martinon, Jean

Martinon, Jean, significant French conductor and composer; b. Lyons, Jan. 10, 1910; d. Paris, March 1, 1976. He studied violin at the Lyons Cons. (1924–25) and at the Paris Cons. (1926–29), winning the premier prix; then took lessons in composition with Roussel and d’Indy and in conducting with Munch and Desormière; obtained his M.A. degree in arts from the Sorbonne (1932). He was in the French army during World War II; was taken prisoner in 1940 and spent 2 years in a German prison camp (Stalag IX); during imprisonment, he wrote several works of a religious nature, among them Psalm 136, Musique d’exil ou Stalag IX, and Absolve Domine, in memory of French musicians killed in the war. After his release, he appeared as a conductor with the Pasdeloup Orch. in Paris (1943); then was conductor of the Bordeaux Sym. Orch. (1943–45), asst. conductor of the Paris Cons. Orch. (1944–46), and assoc. conductor of the London Phil. (1947–49). After conducting the Radio Eireann Orch. in Dublin (1948–50), he was artistic director of the Lamoureux Orch. in Paris (1950–57). He made his American debut with the Boston Sym. Orch. on March 29, 1957, conducting the U.S. premiere of his 2nd Sym. Martinon was artistic director of the Israel Phil. (1958–60) and Generalmusikdirektor of the Düsseldorf Sym. Orch. (1960–66). In 1963 he was appointed music director of the Chicago Sym. Orch.; during the 5 years of his tenure, he conducted about 60 works by American and European composers of the modern school; this progressive policy met opposition from some influential people in Chicago society and in the press, and he resigned in 1968. He subsequently was chief conductor of the Orchestre National de la Radio Television Française in Paris (from 1968) and the Residente Orch. in The Hague (from 1974). As a conductor, he became best known for his idiomatic performances of the French repertoire. His own compositions follow the spirit of French neo-Classicism, euphonious in their modernity and expansive in their Romantic élan.

Works

dramatic: opera:Hécube, after Euripides (1949–54; 1st scenic perf., Strasbourg, Nov. 10, 1956). ballet:Ambohimanga ou La Cité bleue (1946; Paris, 1947). orch.: 4 syms.: No. 1 (1934–36; Paris, March 1940), No. 2, Hymne à la vie (1942–44; Paris, Feb. 13, 1944), No. 3, Irlandaise (Radio Eirean, Dublin, 1949), and No. 4, Altitudes (Chicago, Dec. 30, 1965); Symphoniette for Strings, Piano, Harp, and Percussion (1935; Paris, May 30, 1938); 2 violin concertos: No. 1, Concerto giocoso (1937–42) and No. 2 (1958; Selle, Bavaria, May 28, 1961); Musique d’exil ou Stalag IX, musical reminiscence of imprisonment (1941; Paris, Jan. 11, 1942); Divertissement (1941); Obsession for Chamber Orch. (1942); Romance bleue, rhapsody for Violin and Orch. (1942); Concerto lyrique for String Quartet and Chamber Orch. (1944; transcribed as Concerto for 4 Saxophones and Chamber Orch. in 1974); Overture for a Greek Tragedy (1949; prelude to the 2nd act of Hécube); Symphonies de voyages (1957); Introduction and Toccata (1959; orchestration of the piano piece Prelude and Toccata); Cello Concerto (1963; Hamburg, Jan. 25, 1965); Le Cène (1962–63); Hymne, Variations et Rondo (1967; Paris, Feb. 15, 1969); Flute Concerto (1970–71); Sonata movimento perpetuo (1973). chamber: 7 sonatinas: No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1935), No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1936), No. 3 for Piano (1940), No. 4 for Wind Trio (1940), No. 5 for Solo Violin (1942), No. 6 for Solo Violin (1958), and No. 7 for Flute and Piano (1958); Domenon for Wind Quintet (1939); String Trio (1943) Suite nocturne for Violin and Piano (1944); Piano Trio (1945); Scherzo for Violin and Piano (1945); 2 string quartets (1946; 1963–66); Prelude and Toccata for Piano (1947); Duo for Violin and Piano (1953); Introduzione, Adagio et Passacaille for 13 Instruments (1967); Vigentuor for 20 Instruments (1969); Octet (1969). vocal:Absolve Domine for Men’s Chorus and Orch. (1940; perf. at Stalag IX prison camp, Nov. 2, 1940); Appel de parfums for Narrator, Men’s or Mixed Chorus, and Orch. (1940); Psalm 136 (Chant de captifs) for Narrator, Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1942); Ode au Soleil ne de la Mort for Narrator, Chorus, and Orch. (1945); Le Lis de Sharon, oratorio (1951; Tel Aviv, 1952); songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire