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Henri Marteau

Henri Marteau was born on 31 March 1874 in Reims (France). His father, a Frenchman, was a textile manufacturer and a well known amateur violinist in Reims. His German mother was an excellent pianist, who had studied under Clara Schumann. As a wealthy family the Marteaus hosted chamber music events at their residence and took an active part of the classical musical scene. So it was no surprise that the famous French pianist Francis Planté became the godfather of Henri Marteau. At the age of 5 the young Henri attended a chamber concert of violinist Camillo Sivori at the Marteau residence. Henri Marteau was captivated by the performance and expressed his wish to play the violin himself. No sooner said than done and he started his violin lessons first under August Bünzli, a former student of Bernhard Molique. Henri Marteau improved quickly on the violin and already two years later he changed his violin teacher and switched to the renowned violin virtuoso Hubert Leonard. At the age of 10 Henri Marteau performed his first public concert and that was the start of an international career as a violin prodigy.
In his teenager years Henri Marteau toured through Europe and established ties with composers and performers like Johannes Brahms, Max Bruch, Peter Tchaikovsky, Camille Saint-Saens, Jules Massenet, Joseph Joachim or Anton Rubinstein.

In 1891 he began to study violin (under Jules Garcin) and composition (under Theodore Dubois) at the Conservatoire National de Paris for one year. The main reason was to win the "Concours Violon de Conservatoire National de Paris" a year later which he did (against competitors like the famous Carl Flesch). This award opened the doors for a concert tour in the US which followed the year after.

Another year later - in 1894 - Henri Marteau toured through Scandinavia and met composers like Edvard Grieg, Johan Svendsen, Christian Sinding or Tor Aulin. The meetings, contacts and friendships of this Scandinavian tour were intense and held a lifetime.
In 1900 Henri Marteau was appointed violin professor at the conservatory in Geneva. In 1908 he became professor at the University of Arts in Berlin and successor of the position of Joseph Joachim. After the outbreak of World War I Henri Marteau - as a Frenchman in Germany - was placed under house arrest in his home in Lichtenberg (Germany). In 1915 he lost his position of violin professor in Berlin. This unpleasant experiences let Henri Marteau remember his contacts in Scandinavia after the war and he became naturalized Swede in 1920.

In the following years Henri Marteau began to reestablish his concert tours and found positions as professor at the German Music Academy in Prague (1921-24), at the concservatory in Leipzig (1926-27) and Dresden (1928-34). Beside these activities he also gave private lessons.
Henri Marteau died on 4 October 1934 in Lichtenberg (Germany).


As a conclusion one can say that Henri Marteau was one of the greatest violinist of the beginning of the 20th century. Composers like Carl Nielsen, Christian Sinding, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, Theodore Dubois or Tor Aulin dedicated compositions to him. Amongst others Henri Marteau gave the world premiere of the violin concerto by Max Reger as well as the US premieres of the concertos by Johannes Brahms and Antonin Dvorak.


Beside his main reputation as a violin virtuoso Henri Marteau was also a composer. He left a work catalogue of around 70 compositions and mainly composed orchestral works with solo violin and chamber and vocal music. Among the compositions are 2 violin concertos, a Fantasy and a Suite for violin and orchestra, 3 string quartets, a string trio, several song cycles, but also chamber music for organ, the cantata for soprano, chorus and orchestra "La voix de Jeanne d'Arc", the musical comedy "Meister Schwalbe", a cello concerto, an oboe concerto and a chamber symphony.


In my possession are two autograph manuscripts of Henri Marteau's very first compositions. One manuscript is his "Coelum verum, for choir and orchestra" and the other autograph is an "Andante for violin and orchestra".

Andante for violin and orchestra


The autograph manuscript is titled "Andante pour le violon avec accompagnement d'orchestre" and was composed between January and June 1891. The work is dedicated to Hubert Leonard, the main violin teacher of Henri Marteau who had passed away in May 1890. So with this composition Henri Marteau treats the loss of the person who taught him the violin the last ten years and who made Henri Marteau an outstanding and renowned violinist.

The very first compositions by Henri Marteau date from 1890/91, so this Andante is one of the earliest compositions of the then 17-year-old. It also seems that this composition is unknown so far, because the work list of Henri Marteau does not contain an "Andante for violin and orchestra" from 1891. There is an "Andantino op.2 No.3", but that is a different composition. Therefore I am pleased to present here the full score of this newly discovered violin work by Henri Marteau:

PDF-Dokument [321.8 KB]

Coelum verum


The other autograph is a working manuscript of a composition for choir and large orchestra. The manuscript doesn't bear a title, but the sung text is nearly identical to the poem "Coelum verum" by Eugene Rambert. A bit confusing is the fact that my manuscript is dated at the end "20 Oct 1905", but the official work catalogue of Henri Marteau gives 1896 as the composition year for "Coelum verum op.6 No.2". I could not find a score of this earlier work and so I am not sure how the two compositions match together. You can check the version from my autograph through the following typeset score:

PDF-Dokument [393.4 KB]
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© Tobias Broeker