General information
Title CZKytice [auth.]
Subtitle CZcyklus skladeb na lidové texty, pro smíšený sbor (dětský sbor), sóla a malý orchestr [auth.]
Title ENBouquet of Flowers
Subtitle ENa cycle of compositions to folk texts for mixed chorus (children`s chorus), soli and small orchestra
Title DEBlumenstrauss
Subtitle DEeine Funkkantate über Volkstexte
Title FRBouquet de fleurs
CategoryVocal Music
SubcategoryCantatas with Orchestra
Halbreich number260
Parts of the composition (movements)part I: 1. Overture; 2. His Sister a Poisoner; 3. Idyll; 4. The Little Girl Cowherds; 5. Intrada; 6. His Kind Sweetheart *** part II: 7. A Carol 8. Man and Death
Instruments2320-2210-Timp-Batt-Arm-Pf-Pf-Archi; coro misto, coro voci bianche
Solo voiceS A T B
Dedicatee Zrzavý, Jan
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationVěnováno J. Zrzavému [A, CS; PS - ČHF 1956]; Janu Zrzavému [PPR - Panton 1976]
Note on the dedicationDedicated to Jan Zrzavý.
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1937
Initiation of composition06/1937
Completion of composition26.09.1937
First performance
Performer Blachut, Beno
Cyteráková, Marie
Herold, Jiří
Jeremiáš, Otakar
Kühn, Jan
Vildová, Julie
Date of the first performance04.05.1938
Location of the first performancePrague, Czechoslovak Radio
Note on the first performanceOtakar Jeremiáš (cond.), Jan Kühn (cond.), Julie Vildová (S), Marie Cyteráková (A), Beno Blachut (T), Jiří Herold (B)
Ensemble Pražský rozhlasový orchestr, Český pěvecký sbor, Kühnův dětský sbor
Český pěvecký sbor
Kühnův dětský sbor
Symfonický orchestr Českého rozhlasu
Autograph deposition
InstitutionCzech Radio
OwnerČeský rozhlas
Autograph deposition 2
Note on the autograph depostitionCopy by a copyist's hand (1948) held by a private owner in Germany.
CopyrightSchott Music, Mainz
Purchase linkbuy
Český hudební fond, Prague, 1956
Call number at the BM Institute: 1057
Specification of the edition: Score, 1st edition
Details of this edition
Panton, Prague, 1976
Call number at the BM Institute: 1057c KV
Specification of the edition: Piano reduction; 1st edition
Details of this edition
Panton, Prague, 1984
Call number at the BM Institute: 1057d KV
Specification of the edition: 2nd revised edition
Details of this edition
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Lyrics from Czech folk poetry. *** Entries in the Charlotte Martinů's diary: durata: 41' 30''; initiation of composition: 05.06.1937, part I (completion?): 18.06.1937, completion of the last part "Man and Death": 26.09.1937. *** Title and durata on the title page of the autograph score [see Czech version of this page for diplomatic transcription]: "Kytice. | A cycle of compositions to folk texts. | for mixed chorus (children`s chorus), soli and small orchestra. | The whole work (with intermissions) lasts 45 - 50 minutes". Date on the title page of the autograph score: 18 June 1937; date at the end of "A Carol": 21 June 1937; date on the last page: 26 September 1937.
About the composition

The radio cantata Kytice (Garland) was composed in the summer of 1937 and is dedicated to the painter Jan Zrzavý, a friend of the composer during his Paris years. Martinů wrote this cycle of pieces to texts from Czech folk poetry for solo voices, mixed choir, children's choir, and small orchestra on commission for Czech Radio, for which he had already composed the one-act operas The Voice of the Forest, H 243, and Comedy on the Bridge, H 247. The cantata Kytice consists of eight movements, arranged in pairs of which each contains one orchestral and one orchestral-vocal movement ("Overture" – "Sister Poisoner"; "Idyll" - "Cow Girls"; "intrada" - "Sweetheart Dearer than Family"), except in the case of the closing orchestral-vocal pair "Carol" - "Man and Death". Not onlz did Martinů employ two pianos in the small orchestra as he did in the Tre ricercari, H 267, and the Concerto grosso, H 263, he also added a harmonium. He chose the folk texts from the collections of František Sušil and (in the case of the "Carol") Karel Jaromír Erben.

The subject of death passes through Martinů's whole compositional output, from immature early attempts such as the symphonic overture La mort de Tintagiles, H 15,(designated as Op. 1 on the autograph) to the death of the shepherd Manolios in the opera The Greek Passion (1954-59), H 372. It is represented in all the cantatas and oratorios Martinů composed, including the Czech Rhapsody (1918), H 118, Kytice (1937), the Field Mass (1939), H 279, Mount of Three Lights (1954), H 349, The Epic of Gilgamesh (1954-55), H 351, and the four folk cantatas from 1955-59. In Kytice, however, Martinů devoted a whole movement to death, namely the last one which is the most important and longest: "Man and Death" accounts for almost a third of the whole cantata's duration. Whereas in the madrigal "In the World is Nothing Constant" (No. 3 in the Madrigals, H 380), death is treated in a mood of resignation, almost reconciliation, in the final movement of Kytice it is depicted as something frightful from which man tries in vain to escape. In accordance with his interest at the time in medieval folk theater, Martinů uses horrifying tone-painting effects - the repeated pounding of the woodwinds, brass, and both pianos conveying the words, "Then Death shot an arrow through his heart and marrow, Death struck without warning on that summer morning", engrave themselves in one's memory upon first hearing and remain there forever as an archetype of fear of death. As in every morality play, at the end, the fate of an individual is generalized into a warning: "Now, good friends, hear my plea, take a lesson from me: My sad fate you will share, for Death you must prepare". But this wouldn't be Martinů if he didn't finish the whole work with music that - despite its text - offers consolation.

Kytice is one of those works of Martinů that are still performed more in the Czech lands than abroad. Perhaps this is due to its textual basis - more comprehensible, after all, in the composer's homeland than elsewhere. Perhaps an obstacle to performance has been the complicated performing apparatus, requiring, besides orchestra, two large choirs. The complicated international political situation and the fact of the composer's exile, however, undoubtedly had a negative impact on the number of performances of this masterpiece. Twenty years after it was composed, in 1959, Martinů mentioned it in a letter to relatives in Polička: "Anyway our vacation period, too, is ending and I'm looking forward to returning to Schönenberg. There we feel more at home and our friends are already looking forward to seeing us. Recordings are waiting for us there, so finally we’ll hear something. Paul Sacher played them for himself and likes them a lot; he writes that they are recorded well. So I’ll hear at least Kytice, which I’ve never heard."

Aleš Březina, Bohuslav Martinů: Selected Masterpieces, © 2001 Supraphon Music a.s

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