Henri Marteau was born in 1874 in Reims as the son of the textile manufacturer Charles Marteau and his wife Clara. His parents received the European elite from the arts and sciences in their salon, where, at the age of five, Henri met Ernesto Camillo Sivori, a pupil of Niccolò Paganini. Sivori provided the enthusiastic child with a small violin and his first lessons. Marteau made his debut as a prodigy in 1884 in Reims before an audience of 2000. In 1887, he fascinated Johannes Brahms, the press, and the public at a concert of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna.
He became friends with Max Reger in 1904, whose work he continuously supported. They performed together in over 50 concerts. In 1908, he succeeded Joseph Joachim as a professor at the Academy of Music in Berlin. From 1911 to 1913, he built his villa in Lichtenberg. Due to his French citizenship, Marteau lost his professorship in Berlin during the First World War and was placed under house arrest in Lichtenberg in 1916. He became a Swedish citizen in 1920. Until his death in 1934, Marteau, in addition to his teaching activities in Prague, Leipzig, and Dresden, taught students from all over the world at his home in Lichtenberg, thereby establishing the traditional master classes that take place there today.