Henri Marteau

Henri Marteau pictured by Nadar

Henri Marteau (March 31, 1874 – October 3, 1934) was a French violinist and composer.


Life and career

He was born in Reims, France. He was of German-French mixture. His father (a Frenchman) was a well known amateur violinist of that city, and took a great interest in musical affairs. His mother (a Berlin woman) was an excellent pianist, who had studied under Clara Schumann. Through the influence of Camillo Sivori, Marteau's parents were easily persuaded to allow their son to adopt a musical career, and he showed remarkable aptitude in his studies, first under Bunzl, later under Hubert Léonard and from 1891 entered Jules Garcin's class at the Paris Conservatoire.

Henri was remarkable both for his individuality and for his development.

His debut was made when only ten years old, at a concert given by the Vienna Philharmonic Society, conducted by Hans Richter. A tour through Switzerland and Germany followed. A year later Charles Gounod selected this young violinist to play the obbligato of a piece composed for the Joan of Arc Centenary Celebration at Reims.

Marteau made his professional debut in London in 1888, at a Richter concert. In 1892 he gained the first place prize at the Paris Conservatory, and Jules Massenet wrote a violin concerto especially for his benefit. A further series of tours followed. Twice he visited America, once in 1893, and once in 1898, and he visited Russia 1897-1899.

He was then engaged in teaching, and for a time was professor of the violin at Geneva Conservatoire. On the death of Joseph Joachim, Marteau was called to the Hochschule of Berlin, where he became head of the violin department. During World War I he was expelled from Germany and instead moved to Sweden, where he became a citizen.

Marteau was long an advocate of chamber music. On April 13, 1894, for example, he, pianist Ami Lauchame, a violist named Koert, and a cellist named Hegner were reported to have given their second invitation chamber music concert in New York, performing works of Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré; a third concert was scheduled for the following week.[1] By 1906, Marteau was leading a string quartet that broke up in a dispute over a work by Max Reger.[2] In Berlin, he formed another string quartet with his student Licco Amar as second violinist[3] and Hugo Becker as cellist; later, Becker's student George Georgescu would take over the cello position.[4]

Marteau composed a cantata for soprano, chorus and orchestra, entitled La voix de Jeanne d'Arc.

He died in Lichtenberg, Bavaria, Germany.

To recollect the name and work of the grand violinist Henri Marteau. the Hofer Symphoniker organize the International Violin Competition Henri Marteau which is taking place every three years in his house in Lichtenberg, next time in May/June 2011.

Selected works

  • Meister Schwalbe, Musical Comedy in 1 act (1922)
  • Fantaisie in E major for violin and orchestra, Op. 3
  • Cadenza for the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms (1904)
  • Concerto in B major for cello and orchestra, Op. 7 (1905)
  • Suite in A major for violin and orchestra, Op. 15
  • Concerto in C major for violin and orchestra, Op. 18 (1919)
Chamber music
  • Berceuse for violin and piano, Op. 1 (1902)
  • Berceuse for violin and piano, Op. 2 No. 1
  • Feuillet d'Album in D minor for viola and piano, Op. 2 No. 2
  • Andantino in A minor for violin and piano, Op. 2 No. 3
  • String Quartet No.1 in D major, Op. 5
  • Chaconne in C minor for viola and piano, Op. 8 (1905)
  • String Quartet No.2 in D major, Op. 9 (1905)
  • Trio in F minor for violin, viola and cello, Op. 12 (1907)
  • Quintet in C minor for clarinet and string quartet, Op. 13 (1908)
  • Études d'archet (Bowing Studies) for violin with violin accompaniment, Op. 14 (1910)
  • String Quartet No.3 in C major, Op. 17 (1921)
  • Études de gammes (Scale Studies) for violin, Op. 19 (1916)
  • Sérénade for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet and 2 bassoons, Op. 20 (1922)
  • 24 Caprices d'execution transcendante for violin and piano, Op. 25 (1919)
  • Fantaisie for organ and violin, Op. 27 (1910)
  • Terzetto for flute, violin and viola, Op. 32 (1924)
  • Sonata Fantastica for violin solo, Op. 35 (1927)
  • Partita for flute and viola, Op. 42 No. 2
  • Divertimento for flute and violin, Op. 43 No. 1
  • Trois Compositions for organ, Op. 23 (1918)
  • Ave Maria for voice, violin, harp (piano) and organ (harmonium), Op. 4 No. 1
  • 8 Songs for voice and string quartet, Op. 10 (1906)
  • Drei geistliche Gesänge (Three Sacred Songs) for medium voice and organ, Op. 29 (1923)
  • Fünf Schilflieder for baritone, viola and piano, Op. 31; words by Nikolaus Lenau
  • 2 Ballades for voice and piano, Op. 34 (1924)
  • Drei Lieder (Three Songs) for mixed chorus, Op. 33 (1924)
  • La voix de Jeanne d'Arc, Cantata for soprano, chorus and orchestra


  • Sadie, S. (ed.) (1980) The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, [vol. # 11].
  • The Memoirs of Carl Flesch 1957
  • An Encyclopedia of the Violin - Alberto Bachmann 1875
  • Violin Virtuosos - Henry Roth 1997

External links


This article is based on a text from the Etude magazine, prior to 1923, that is in the public domain.

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