Why a great composer quit Curtismain
The conductor José Serebrier has offered us this memoir of Bohuslav Martinu, whose music we shared earlier this week.
Martinu accepted me as his student at Curtis when I was 17, and wrote me a number of amazing letters now held at the Martinu Institute in Prague. When the Institute asked to interview me, at first I turned it down, indicating that I never got to have a lesson from Martinu, that he left Curtis before I arrived in Philadelphia, but the Institute insisted because of what Martinu had written about me. Amazing. The story of what happened is also quite amazing. Martinu lived in NY and was also teaching at Juilliard. The train New York-Philadelphia was unreliable in the mid-50’s and took at least 4 hours, so sometimes Martinu would be late for classes at Curtis. He saw that his meager pay-checks showed discounts for lateness, petty amounts, but not acceptable. He resigned and decided to leave the US.He wrote me the most beautiful letter of apology for not remaining there to teach me, and left for Switzerland [where he died].