General information
Title CZNipponari [auth.]
Subtitle CZsedm písní pro ženský hlas s průvodem malého orchestru [auth.]
Title ENNipponari
Subtitle ENseven songs for female voice and small orchestra
Title DENipponari
Subtitle DEsieben Lieder für Frauenstimme und kleines Orchester
CategoryVocal Music
SubcategoryWorks for Solo Voice and Orchestra
Halbreich number68
Parts of the composition (movements)1. The Blue Hour 2. Old Age 3. Memory 4. Life in Dreams 5. Footsteps in the Snow 6. A Look Back 7. By the Sacred Lake
Instruments3Fl Cor ing Trgl Tam-tam Cel Arpa Pf Archi(9Vl 6Vle 4Vc 2Cb)
Solo voiceS
Dedicatee Drill-Oridge, Theo
Note on the dedicationDedicated to Theo Drill-Oridge.
Place of compositionPolička
Year of origin1912
Initiation of composition1912
Completion of composition1912
First performance
Location of the first performanceBrno, Czechoslovak Radio
Autograph deposition
Owner of the sourceCentrum Bohuslava Martinů v Poličce
Note on the autograph depostitionParts by a copyist's hand deposited at the Bohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička as well.
Draft of song No.7 is held by the Czech Museum of Music in Prague.
CopyrightSchott Music, Mainz
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Lyrics of japanese poetry: Nukada (1), Kiutsuna (2), Kibino (3), Komachi (4, 6), Gozen (5), Ozi Okotsuma (7).
Translation by Josef Maria Emanuel z Lešehradu.
Different order of songs from the piano version (see H. 68 A).
Orchestration differs in individual songs.
Martinů titled the composition incorrectly "Niponari".
Date of origin: Summer-Autumn 1912 (draft completed on 24.8.1912).
About the composition

As a young composer, Martinů seems to have been well aware of the importance of pacing himself, not to attempt too many ambitious works too soon. As a result, the bulk of his early output consists largely of songs and piano pieces. Halbreich’s catalogue indicates several abortive attempts to write for orchestra in the following years, but the only surviving evidence of his development in matters of instrumentation at this time is the song-cycle Nipponari, H 68, for soprano and chamber orchestra, written in the same year. The work is a glowing testimony to the influence of Debussy, sparked when Martinů attended a performance of Pelléas et Mélisande in 1908. The title of the work reveals that, like so many Impressionist composers, he had turned to the Orient for inspiration, setting seven lyrical Japanese poems in Czech translation. His harmonic vocabulary has expanded to include pentatonic and whole-tone elements, but the most important skill that he has acquired from his Impressionist models is a fine judgement of instrumental timbres and a happy knack of finding sound combinations which precisely mirror the mood of the poetry. The instrumentation of each song is different. The largest ensemble appears in the final song, By the Sacred Lake (U posvátného jezera), and consists of three flutes, celesta, harp, triangle, tam-tam, six violins, six violas, two cellos and two basses. The opposite extreme is found in the rather withdrawn fourth song,Life in Dreams (Prosněný život), accompanied only by three flutes and four violas. Nipponari sees the first use of the piano in Martinů’s orchestra, though it appears only in the fifth song Footsteps in the Snow (Stopy ve sněhu). Here it combines most effectively with the harp as the orchestra (which also includes four violins, three violas and celesta) brilliantly conjures up the “dazzling snow” and the “glitter of the stars” to which the poem refers.

Michael Crump, Martinů and the Symphony, Symphonic Studies No. 3, Toccata Press, London, 2010, s. 24.

For more information, see also Nipponari, H 68 A, version for voice and piano.

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