An Analysis of Bohuslav Martinů’s Sonata No. 1 for Viola and Piano




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Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) was one of the leading Czech violinists and composers in the twentieth century. His music includes opera, chamber music, solo piano, orchestral work, ballet, and choral music. He drew his inspirations from Czech folk songs, jazz, Stravinsky, Roussel, and Renaissance polyphony. This paper begins with a discussion of Martinů’s life and compositional style during his late period, when he was in the United States and Europe. Martinů spent much of his time traveling and attempting to resettle after the turmoil of WWII. Much of that travel left his life ungrounded and unpredictable. Through all the struggle, he always longed to be back in his home town. The historical account is followed by an analysis of his Sonata No. 1 for Viola and Piano. The analysis will discuss the form, harmony, melody, rhythmic characteristics, and folk elements of this sonata. As a neoclassicist, Martinů channeled his musical voice through the conventions and structures derived from the Classical period. Although many of the forms maintain the shape of their traditional conception, Martinů imbues them with his own voice and meaning. The goal of this study is to better understand the musical style of this sonata as a whole. The style of this sonata is in contrast to the general stylistic trend of European modernists towards atonalism.



Music, Viola