General information
Title CZSymfonie č. 4
Title ENSymphony No. 4 [auth.]
Title DESymphonie Nr. 4
Title FRSymphonie n° 4
CategoryOrchestral Music
Halbreich number305
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Poco moderato; 2. Scherzo: Allegro vivo; 3. Largo; 4. Poco allegro
Durata31' 30''
Dedicatee Ziegler, Helen
Ziegler, William Jr.
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationTo Helene and Bill Ziegler
Place of compositionNew York City, New York
Place of composition 2Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Year of origin1945
Initiation of composition01.04.1945
Completion of composition14.06.1945
First performance
Performer Eugene Ormandy (dir./cond.)
Ormandy, Eugene
Date of the first performance1945-11-30
Location of the first performancePhiladelphia
Ensemble The Philadelphia Orchestra
Autograph deposition
InstitutionMorgan Library & Museum
Deposition locationNew York City, New York
Note on the autograph depostitionThe autograph score is located in the Robert Owen Lehman Collection. *** Reproductions of the autograph score are located at the Bohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička (2 copies), in the archive of Boosey & Hawkes in London and at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague. ***Performing materials (score and parts) by a foreign hand are held by the Czech Philharmonic archive. *** Copies of drafts of movements 1, 2 and 4 from various owners are located at the Bohuslav Martinů Institute.
CopyrightBoosey & Hawkes, London-New York
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References Related correspondence
Documents in the Library
Note Completion of the movements: 1st movement on 17.04.1945, 2nd movement on 02.05.1945, 3rd movement on 22.05.1945 (New York), 4th movement on 14.06.1945 (Cape Cod, South Orleans, Mass.).
About the composition

Before his arrival in the USA, there was no indication that Bohuslav Martinů--the fourth "classic" of Czech music alongside Smetana, Dvořák, and Janáček--would write symphonies. His only attempt in this genre, an isolated symphonic movement from 1912, had remained a torso; until his departure for Paris in 1923, he occupied himself mainly with composing songs and ballets.

Among composers living in Paris in the 1920s, the symphony had a bad reputation; for them, it was a representative genre of romantic music, and therefore, most young composers of the time tried to avoid it. During this time, Martinů devoted himself to composing music for the most varied and unusual instrumental groupings and experimented with use of jazz elements. He wrote for large orchestra only in short one-movement works - Half-Time, H 124, La Bagarre, H 155, Le jazz, H 168, La Rhapsodie, H 171, and three-movement Inventions - and in his operas.

Later, Martinů justified the fact that he did not write a single symphony up to the age of fifty saying that until that time he did not feel adequately prepared for such an important task. However, the fact that nobody had commissioned a symphony from him up to that time clearly played an equally important role because Martinů lived only from commissions for new works and from proceeds from performances of his music. This changed in 1942 when he received a commission from Serge Koussevitzky. This famous Russian conductor and patron of contemporary composers commissioned from Martinů an orchestral work to honor the memory of his recently-deceased wife. The premiere of Martinů's First Symphony in November 1942 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under its chief conductor Koussevitzky was one of the composer's first tremendous successes after his arrival in America. From that time on, Martinů composed a new symphony each year -interrupting this series for a time only after the Fifth Symphony of 1946 - and the successes of their premieres helped to secure his leading position among the most important living composers.

Martinů composed his Fourth Symphony in the spring months of 1945, in a time when the sufferings of war were approaching an end, and people expected more peaceful and favorable times. For Martinů, this historical moment also meant the possible fulfillment of his dream of many years - to return to Czechoslovakia and teach composition there. According to promises from Prague, a professor's position was to be waiting for him there at the newly-founded Academy of Performing Arts in that city (the former Master School of the Prague Conservatory). Therefore, Martinů assumed that the Fourth Symphony, undoubtedly one of the greatest works of his American period, would also be his last work composed in the USA. Unfortunately, this hope was not to be fulfilled.

In contrast to the Third Symphony, in which Martinů gave vent to his homesickness, the Fourth is a work full of jubilation and expectation. The joyful major key of the introduction to the first movement underscores the work's tremendous energy and the optimism that radiates from it. The world premiere of the Fourth Symphony was given in Philadelphia on 30 November 1945 under the baton of Eugene Ormandy. Less than a year later, on 10 October 1946, it was performed by Rafael Kubelik and the Czech Philharmonic in Prague, and within a short time it became the most popular of all Martinů's symphonies and the most often-played around the world.

Aleš Březina, Bohuslav Martinů: Selected Masterpieces, © 2001 Supraphon Music a.s

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