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Born on January 10, 1910 in Lyon, the French conductor and composer, Jean Martinon entered the Lyon and Paris conservatoires to study the violin. At Lyon, his teacher was Maurice Foundray and at the Paris Conservatory, he studied violin technique with Jules Boucherit. While at the Paris conservatory, Martinon took composition with Albert Roussel and Vincent d’Indy. After completing the composition courses, he studied conducting with Charles Munch and Désormière. He graduated from the Paris Conservatory in 1928, winning a premier prix.
Martinon’s familiarity with conducting started in France, followed by various appointments in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. In 1946, he embarked on a conducting career directing the Concerts du Conservatoire in Paris and the Bordeaux Symphony. The successful debut with the LPO led to his appointment as associate conductor of the orchestra in 1947. From 1947-1950 Martinon directed the Radio Eireann orchestra, Dublin and in 1951, he returned to Paris to conduct the Concerts Lamoureux until 1957. From 1957-1959, Martinon conducted the Israel Philharmonic. His appointment as the next conductor of the Düsseldorf Symphony occurred in 1959. Martinon was in Düsseldorf until 1963 when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra selected him as their music director, a position he held until 1968. During that same year, he returned to France to direct the French National Radio Orchestra and served as the principal conductor of the Hague Residentie–Orkest from 1974 until shortly before his death in 1976.
Martinon’s extensive experience as a composer led to his approach to conducting. The Symphoniette pour orchestre á cordes, piano, harpe et timbales, op. 16, from 1935, is one of three first attempts at composition. After enlisting in the war, Martinon’s imprisonment in a German camp, Stalag IX A, resulted in several new compositions, Psaume 136, le Chant des Captifs, Musique d’Exil, Sonatina No.3, Sonatina No. 4 for wind instruments, and various choral works. In 1946, the city of Paris awarded a prize to his composition le Chant des Captifs. After the war, other notable compositions include Symphonie no. 3 (Irlandaise), the Concerto no. 2 pour violin et orchestre, op. 5, dedicated to Szeryng, and the Concerto pour cello et orchestre, op. 52, composed for Pierre Fournier. For the stage Martinon composed two works, the ballet Ambohimanga ou la Cité Bleue and in 1949 the opera Hécube with a libretto by Serge Moreux. Symphony no.4 Altitudes was the outcome of a commission from the Chicago Symphony to commemorate its 75th anniversary.
Martinon had recently taken on a position at the Paris Conservatory to teach conducting when he died from a serious illness on March 1, 1976.
From the guide to the Jean Martinon papers, 1923-1994, (Music Library)
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