One week after signing his non-agression pact with the Soviet Union, Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Guaranteeing Polish neutrality, both Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. By 22 June 1940 France, overrun by the Nazi army, signed an armistice with Germany. A few weeks later, uncertain and afraid, Martinu and his wife made their way to neutral Portugal where they stayed for some months until they could escape to the United States. They settled in New York and Martinu threw himself into work with his customary application. In the USA he turned to teaching, and his music found a widely appreciative audience to which he as an artist responded in turn. Symphonic music dominated his output during the war and in 1946 he held a six-week course at Berkshire, Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge had begun her chamber music Festival in 1918) before returning to Prague as professor of composition at the Conservatoire. But a serious fall in Berkshire prevented his European return until 1948. He did not fully recover from the accident and spent most of 1947 convalescing—a year devoted almost exclusively to writing chamber music. The first of these 1947 works is the Three Madrigals
for violin and viola, written for the brother and sister duo Joseph and Lilian Fuchs. (Martinu composed a Duo No 2, so termed, for them in 1950.) After stretching his compositional powers in his large-scale five symphonies (1942–6), Martinu’s enforced rest led him to turn to smaller forms. The result, in the Three Madrigals
, is a work which is worthy to stand alongside the Mozart Duos, a performance of which by the Fuchses had originally inspired Martinuo. Here, surely, is a memoir of his roots: Bohemian-Moravian folk themes and dances, the pentatonic scale, the very instrumentation of his beloved violin and viola, the ‘sprung’ rhythms of the madrigalists which had so enchanted Martinu when he first heard The English Singers in 1923, intimate sketches of his homeland momentarily at peace and recollected from a distant convalescence.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1992