Bohemian composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) was exceptionally prolific, composing over 400 imaginative, well-crafted, and diverse pieces, including symphonies, operas, ballet scores, and other orchestral works. For 12 years (1941-1953), he lived in America, during which he enjoyed a brilliant reputation, and his works were played by nearly all the major orchestras. Yet today, his works are rarely performed. In Bohuslav Martinu: The Compulsion to Compose, F. James Rybka provides a documented explanation for Martinu's amazing output: he had Asperger syndrome. Indeed, Martinu is believed to be the first composer ever to be documented, albeit retrospectively, with an autistic spectrum disorder. In this unique biography, Rybka follows Martinu's life from his birth in Policka, Bohemia to his composition studies with Albert Roussel, his escape from Nazis, and his rise as an internationally recognized composer with premieres of his works in Boston, Prague, London, and Basel. As Rybka explains how the dynamics of Asperger Syndrome affected the composer's work, readers will more fully appreciate Martinu's accomplishments and legacy. Containing important letters and photographs, this book will inspire and inform those impacted by autism but will also be of interest to music scholars and students alike.
The finest biography of Bohuslav Martinu I know in English...Rybka's biography is detailed and engagingly written. His insight is personal and convincing...His text is well balanced between quotations and narration, pictures abound, the book is well indexed and notated...Reading this account is like having a long, pleasant personal discussion with Rybka about a fascinating uncle he knew very well. American Record Guide The project of this book represents an admirable undertaking...With the help of the documents he has at his disposal, he is able to bring to life his family's long-term friendship with Martinu, as well as include his own thoughtful observations about Martinu and his personality. Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association Overall, I believe this an extremely valuable contribution to a rounded picture of this wonderful composer. Classical Net