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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, August 26

Martinu's "Frescoes"

Synopsis

Piero della Francesca was a 15th century Renaissance painter, whose series of frescoes entitled “Legend of the True Cross” inspired one of the best orchestral works of a 20th-century Czech composer named Bohuslav Martinu.

In 1952, Martinu made a trip to the Tuscan hill town of Arezzo, where he saw the frescoes and got the idea for a new symphonic work that would attempt to capture in music what Piero had captured in painting.

What Martinu sought to replicate was, as he put it, “a kind of solemn, frozen silence and opaque, colored atmosphere… a strange, peaceful, and moving poetry.”

Martinu linked the first movement of his score to one Tuscan fresco showing the Queen of Sheba and some women kneeling by a river; and the second to another depicting the dream of the Emperor Constantine. The third movement was intended, in Martinu’s words, as “a kind of general view of the frescoes.”

Martinu’s orchestral triptych, entitled “The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca,” received its premiere performance on today’s date at the 1956 Salzburg Festival in Austria, with the Vienna Philharmonic led by the eminent Czech conductor, Rafael Kubelik.

Music Played in Today's Program

Bohuslav Martinu (1890 – 1950) Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca Vienna Philharmonic;Rafael Kubelik, cond. Orfeo C521-991 (recorded August 26, 1956)

Additional Information

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