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Work

Bohuslav Martinů

Bohuslav Martinů Composer

Symphony No.4, H.305   

Performances: 6
Tracks: 24
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Musicology:
  • Symphony No.4, H.305
    Year: 1945
    Genre: Symphony
    Pr. Instrument: Orchestra
    • 1.Poco moderato
    • 2.Scherzo. Allegro vivo. Trio. Moderato
    • 3.Largo
    • 4.Poco allegro
The years Martinu spent in America between 1941 and 1953 weren't happy ones; the combination of political events in Czechoslovakia, the turmoil of World War II, and Martinu's residing in a country he found less than congenial depressed his spirits considerably. Nevertheless, he managed to keep up his usual prolific pace of composition. In his first five years in America he had produced fully 25 new pieces, and the spirit of optimism upon the end of the war brought Martinu a new burst of creativity; the Symphony No. 4, one of Martinu's most engaging and mellow orchestral works, was born of this spirit. Dedicated to Helen and Bill Ziegler, the Symphony was written over the months of April-June 1945, mostly in New York and partly at Martinu's summer home near South Orleans, MA, on Cape Cod. It was first performed on November 30, 1945, at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.

A soft Impressionistic rustle opens the first movement, Poco moderato-Poco allegro, leading into a playful woodwind motif which has been characterized as "like bird music." The movement has no development section as such, but features a constant metamorphosis of a couple of brief ideas, leading into a grand coda. The scherzo-like second movement starts with a rollicking tune that makes its way from the bassoon to the trumpet and right around the orchestra. Between the two presentations of this lively music is a mellow, almost Dvorák-like trio section featuring Martinu's characteristic rhythmic playfulness.

A hint of restlessness and anxiety underlies the mysterious, and quite beautiful, third movement (Largo). A more expansive and relaxed theme appears and leads to the one loud climax of the movement. The sense of anxiety returns, but is dispelled in the calm coda. There is likewise a note of unease in the opening theme of the Poco allegro final movement. This restlessness alternates with a broad, rich string tune; these two ideas are developed, the tension between the two is resolved and brighter spirits ultimately prevail.

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