General information
Title CZSymfonie č. 5
Title ENSymphony No. 5 [auth.]
Title DESymphonie Nr. 5
Title FRSymphonie n° 5
CategoryOrchestral Music
Halbreich number310
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Adagio - Allegro; 2. Larghetto; 3. Lento - Allegro
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationDedicated to the Czech Philharmonic
Note on the dedicationDedication on the first page of the printed score (B&H, 1950).
Place of compositionNew York, NY
Year of origin1946
Initiation of composition02/1946
Completion of composition13.05.1946
First performance
Performer Kubelík, Rafael
Date of the first performance28.05.1947
Location of the first performancePrague
Ensemble Česká filharmonie (Czech Philharmonic)
Česká filharmonie
Autograph deposition
Note on the autograph depostitionAutograph missing. *** Reproduction of the autograph score held by the Czech Museum of Music in Prague.
CopyrightBoosey & Hawkes, London-New York
Purchase linkbuy
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note First movement was completed on 12.03.1946, second movement on 05.04.1946, third movement on 13.05.1946.
About the composition

In 1946 Bohuslav Martinů composed his Symphony No. 5, H. 310 in New York and dedicated it to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, in which he played in the group of second violins between 1913 and 1923. The Prague premiere took place a year later under the baton of Rafael Kubelík. The Fifth Symphony ended the five-year period beginning in 1942, in which, in one-year intervals, Martinů wrote his five symphonies, falling silent for a couple of years afterward in terms of composing symphonic music. After the bright and joyful Fourth Symphony, H. 305, the Fifth Symphony, reflected Martinů’s failed expectations of the preceding year. His wish to return home after the war, when he hoped to become a professor at the Prague Conservatory did not come true, and the future looked uncertain.

The tragic character and free compositional concept distinguish this symphony from all the preceding ones. The first movement is an example of the technique used by Martinů quite often in this period. It is based on the constant variation on a single thematic core which gradually leads to an almost closed melody. The first movement of the Fourth Symphony is built in a similar way, and both symphonies also resemble each other in their two-section form. The second movement, however, features a different kind of formation. Over the ostinato pulse of quavers, there hovers a charming flute melody reminiscent of Impressionism, discarded by Martinů long ago. The structure of the movement resembles the form of a rondo, the principle of which is the recurring basic ritornello alternating with episodes. The final section of the three-movement composition is the longest of  Martinů’s symphonic movements and also ranks among the most significant ones. It grows from a three-tone cell, gradually developing into a distinct theme. It has a rich polyphonic structure and stands out in its absolutely original instrumentation. The use of the Moravian folk song Bolavá hlavěnka gives it an unusually personal note. Bohuslav Martinů later expressed his satisfaction with this work as follows: “ is a well-structured, organic and organized work and there are very few passages in it which do not please me does not have the old form of the symphony, but it has a newer and better structure.”

Jana Honzíková a Sandra Bergmannová, programme of Bohuslav Martinů Festival concert, December 21, 1999

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