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Jean Martinon

Date of birth10 January 1910
OccupationComposer, Conductor, Performer, Teacher
CategoriesNeoclassical, Other

Jean Martinon studied violin at the Lyons Conservatory (1924-25) and at the Paris Conservatory (1926-29), winning the premier prix; then took lessons in composition with Roussel and d'Indy and in conducting with Munch and Desormière; obtained his M.A. degree in arts from the Sorbonne (1932). He was in the French army during World War II; was taken prisoner in 1940 and spent two years in a German prison camp (Stalag IX); during imprisonment, he wrote several works of a religious nature, among them "Psalm 136," "Musique d'exil ou Stalag IX," and "Absolve Domine," in memory of French musicians killed in the war. After his release, he appeared as a conductor with the Pasdeloup Orchestra in Paris (1943); then was conductor of the Bordeaux Symphony Orchestra (1943-45), assistant conductor of the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra (1944-46), and associate conductor of the London Philharmonic (1947-49). After conducting the Radio Eireann Orchestra in Dublin (1948-50), he was artistic director of the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris (1950-57). He made his American debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on March 29, 1957, conducting the U.S. premiere of his Second Symphony. Martinon was artistic director of the Israel Philharmonic (1958-60) and Generalmusikdirektor of the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra (1960-66). In 1963 he was appointed music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; during the five years of his tenure, he conducted about 60 works by American and European composers of the modern school; this progressive po0licy met opposition from some influential people in Chicago society and in the press, and he resigned in 1968. He subsequently was chief conductor of the Orchestre National de la Radio Télevision Française in Paris (from 1968) and the Residente Orchestra in The Hague (from 1974). As a conductor, he became best known for his idiomatic performances of French and 20th-century repertoire, but he was equally at home in the Austro-German classics. He received the Bruckner-Mahler Medal for his championing and perceptive interpretations of the latter composer's music.

Martinon's early compositions follow the neo-classical spirit of his chief musical mentor, Roussel; but by the 1960s his vocabulary had broadened to reveal his affinity for Debussy, Berg and Bartók.

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