During the 1920s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s aptly named “Jazz Age” swept North America. Likewise, Europe was exposed to current musical flavours and the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu was not immune to the trends. In 1927 Martinu wrote the 10-movement jazz ballet The Temptation of the Saintly Pot, incorporating the popular Charleston, Tango and the Foxtrot dances to complement the unlikely tale of a kitchen utensil love-triangle. Martinu condensed the ballet into a 4-movement suite and under the new title of La Revue de Cuisine “The Kitchen Revue”, the suite was premiered in Paris in 1930.
The suite maintains the original instrumentation of the ballet; violin, cello, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet and piano. With this combination, Martinu demonstrated the possibilities of jazz in a chamber ensemble without percussion. In Martinu’s mind his native Slav folk songs contained a rhythmic parallel to jazz, as he observed,
“I often think of the amazingly pregnant rhythm … of our Slovak songs, of their characteristic, rhythmical, instrumental accompaniment, and it seems to me that it is unnecessary for us to have recourse to the jazz band. Nevertheless I cannot deny the part [jazz] plays in the stream of our life … It is another question, however, how this influence should be realised.” (Quoted in Bohuslav Martinu His Life and Works, Safranek, M., London: Alan Wingate, 1962, p.117).
In La Revue de Cuisine, Martinu has realised the jazz influence through such features as the Dixie-style clarinet writing, the shifting meters of the piano’s rhythmic role, the jazz band colour of the muted trumpet, and the witty soloistic interchanges between instruments.
– Notes by Claire Howard Race
Sirius Chamber Ensemble and guest artists will perform Saturday 10th November 2012, 7.30pm at the St Philip’s Church.
Tickets available on trybooking.com or at the door.