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Original Letters by Composer Bohuslav Martinů Donated to the Czech Republic

During the Czech National Day reception, Ambassador of the Czech Republic Hynek Kmoníček accepted a donation of more than a hundred letters written by Bohuslav Martinů to his friend Frantisek Rybka in the United States. His son James Rybka and his siblings gifted these precious documents to the Municipal Museum and Gallery Polička in the Czech Republic.

A collection of over a hundred letters, which were written by Bohuslav Martinů to his friend Frantisek Rybka in the United States between the years 1940-1959, were handed into the hands of Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček by Dr. Francis James Rybka on October 26, 2017. The ceremonial delivery took place during the festivities of Czech National Day, a day celebrating Czech independence, at the Czech Embassy in Washington. Several members of Dr. Rybka’s family, who traveled from California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, attended the occasion.

During the ceremony, Ambassador Kmoníček emphasized, “It is my great honor that today I could accept such precious documents. I thank Dr. Rybka and his family for their valuable gift. I will gladly help to deliver the composer’s handwritten documents to his native town of Polička.” The letters, dedicated to the Municipal Museum and Gallery Polička, are accompanied by Dr. Rybka’s notes and explanations as well as photographs and the original composition “Dumka,” which Martinů composed for Dr. Rybka’s mother.

Dr. Rybka, who is the author of the biography Bohuslav Martinů, The Compulsion to Compose, published by Scarecrow Press in 2011, offered insight into the composer’s life and personality. In an interview with Czech Television, Dr. Rybka stated, I would like to offer a new source of information about an amazing musician, not only for music fans but also for psychologists that study Asperger’s Syndrome as Martinů, in my opinion, suffered from it. Lastly, I would be very pleased if my book was translated into Czech, the native tongue of my father and my grandparents.”

Dr. Francis Rybka (1935) was born in New York to parents who devoted themselves to classical music. His father Frantisek, an organ player and conductor, immigrated to America in 1913 upon graduating from the Brno Organ School, under the direction of Leoš Janáček. His wife Doris Summers was a piano player from Tennessee. Their son Francis James Rybka studied piano and French horn, but lacked the talents in music of his parents or his older brother, Boris. He developed interests in biology, going on to graduate from Brown University, and went from there to graduate from Cornell University Medical School in 1961. He trained to become a general surgeon at the Boston City Hospital. In 1964, he married Lucille Coderre, a nurse from Woonsocket, Rhode Island. During the Vietnam War, he served as a Captain in the US Air Force for two years, after which he had further training in Plastic Surgery in St. Louis. Since 1970, the Rybkas have settled in Sacramento, California where he entered private practice.

Many years after his father and Martinů died, Dr. Rybka had the letters translated. He was interested in several particularities. With further research, he concluded that the composer suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome. For example, one of Martinů’s odd traits was his extreme dependence on others. He lacked social reciprocity; when other composers complimented at a premiere of one of his scores, he would say nothing in reply, and walk off. He was extremely shy, so much that he was not able to go out on stage to bow to the public after his works of music were performed. Dr. Rybka presents further evidence and his conclusions in his book Bohuslav Martinů, The Compulsion to Compose.

Czech Television Report


National Day 2017 Martinu Letters Donation