Martinu and Spohr

Annabelle Berthomé-Reynolds and Diana Mathews

Martinu working at the piano


Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959)

Martinu was an accomplished violinist, having begun playing the instrument at the age of seven. Indeed, at the start of his career as a professional musician, he played in the second violin section of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

Martinu wrote the Three Madrigals for violin and viola in 1947 during the time, 1941-1953, when he was living in America. They were dedicated to the siblings Lilian Fuchs (violist) and Joseph Fuchs (violinist). Martinu first met them in New York on 20th January 1947 at the Musicians’ Guild chamber music performance. At this particular performance, Joseph and Lilian Fuchs played Mozart’s violin and viola duo in B flat major. Martinu was most impressed and as a result decided to write the Madrigals which he presented to Lilian and Joseph just three weeks later. Lilian and Joseph Fuchs premiered the Madrigals at another of the Musicians’ Guild concerts on the 22nd December 1947. They were enthusiastically received and Lilian and Joseph Fuchs continued to perform them throughout their careers.

Spohr’s Birthplace in Brunswick

Louis Spohr

Louis Spohr (1784-1859)

Loui Spohr was a German composer, violinist and conductor.He was highly regarded during his lifetime and invented both the violin chin rest and the orchestral rehearsal mark. He was also one of the first conductors to use a baton. A prolific composer, he wrote works in many genres including nine symphonies, 15 violin concertos, 3 operas and a variety of chamber music, including 36 string quartets. He is also remembered for his Violinschule, a treatise on violin playing. This talks of many of the latest violin techniques including spiccato and became a standard work of instruction.

Spohr leading a string ensemble at home

Spohr composed his Duo Op. 13 for violin and viola in 1808. This was during the period when he was the leader of the orchestra at Gotha (1805-1812).

Louis Spohr