General information
Title CZLegenda z dýmu bramborové nati [auth.]
Subtitle CZkantáta pro sóla, smíšený sbor a instrumentální doprovod
Title ENThe Legend of the Smoke from Potato Tops
Subtitle ENcantata for soli, mixed choir and instrumental accompaniment
Title DELegende aus dem Rauch des Kartoffelkrautes
Subtitle DEKantate für Soli, gemischter Chor und Instrumentalbegleitung
CategoryVocal Music
SubcategoryCantatas without Instrumental Accompaniment or with Single Instruments
Halbreich number360
InstrumentsFl Cl Cor Fisarm Pf; Coro misto (SATB)
Solo voiceS A Bar
Dedicatee Ježková, Frances
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationVěnováno paní Frances Ježkové.
Note on the dedicationDedicated to Mrs. Frances Ježková.
Place of compositionRome
Year of origin1956
Initiation of composition05.10.1956
Completion of composition14.10.1956
First performance
Performer Kühn, Jan
Date of the first performance28.05.1957
Location of the first performancePrague (Prague Spring Music Festival)
Ensemble Český pěvecký sbor
Český pěvecký sbor
Autograph deposition
InstitutionBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
OwnerCentrum Bohuslava Martinů v Poličce
Note on the autograph depostitionReproduction of the autograph score is held by the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel.
CopyrightBärenreiter Praha
Purchase linkbuy
Státní nakladatelství krásné literatury, hudby a umění, Prague, 1960
Call number at the BM Institute: 1161
Specification of the edition: 1st edition
Details of this edition
Bärenreiter Praha, Prague, 2016
Call number at the BM Institute: SV MAR 4
Specification of the edition: Bohuslav Martinů Complete Edition
Details of this edition
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Lyrics by Miloslav Bureš. *** German translation by Kurt Honolka, English translation by Iris Urwin. *** Also known as "Legend of the Smoke from Potato Fires" or "Legend from the Smoke of Potato Fires".
About the composition

On May 1, 1955, the Union of Czechoslovak Composers joined the December call of the Union of Soviet Composers to promote cooperation in songwriting between composers and poets. It, therefore, called on the Union of Czechoslovak Writers to work together. At the end of June 1955, the poet Miloslav Bureš sent the composer Bohuslav Martinů the poetic cycle The Song about the Well of Rubies. A year later, Bureš sent him another "song": To his old mother's song, and a year later A song About Mikš from the mountains. Martinů set the first of them to music immediately and renamed it The Opening of the Wells, H 354. But the "song" did not remain in the names of later cantatas, too. In 1957, when the composer was waiting for the poet in Rome, he set the following masterpiece to music: He called it The Romance from the Dandelions, H 364. He previously set to music another Bureš's cycle, renamed The Legend of the Smoke from Potato Tops, H 360. Martinů protested with this cantata in the autumn of 1956 against the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. He postponed Bureš's last "song" for several years, until the beginning of 1959. He named this cantata Mikesh from the Mountains, H 375, and dedicated it to the founder and first choirmaster of Kühn's mixed choir, Pavel Kühn, for the first public concert of this ensemble on June 18, 1959.

Martinů began working on the cantata The Legend of the Smoke from Potato Tops at the beginning of October 1956 in Rome, where he lived at the time. He completed the cantata in mid-November - at a time when the uprising in Hungary had already been defeated by Soviet tanks and fighters. Although a premiere was already planned in Prague, Martinů decided not to send the score to the Czech Republic and thus expressed disagreement with what had happened in Hungary and how Czechoslovakia had helped. The composer's opposition to the communist regime in Czechoslovakia is known today, and therefore his reaction is not surprising. However, this was the first time that he had made his position clear. He wrote to his siblings in Polička on November 29, 1956: "I had to decide not to send the romance now also for reasons you only have to guess, and I would like you to tell B. when he arrives in Polička." Fears of censorship led him to simply indicate a problem and to shorten the poet's name to the initial. Martinů continued his passive resistance until Christmas. It was when he received a collection of Moravian folk texts called Brigands from conductor Miloslav Venhoda from Prague, and it was thanks to it that Martinů sensed the possibility of expressing his protest even better. He replaced the current passive resistance with direct stimuli for active resistance in Czechoslovakia. Under the impression of the printed edition of Bureš's poem, he decided that its central theme, the descent of the Virgin Mary among the people on earth, would be a much stronger message for listeners in Czechoslovakia than mere passive protest. In a country where religious themes have been tabooed, it will bring the audience more than the composer's political gesture. Martinů then sent a cantata to Bohemia in mid-January and premiered at the Prague Spring in May.

As we know today, neither the premiere of Brigand Songs, H 361, nor the release of The Legend of the Smoke from Potato Tops contributed to the fighting spirit in Czechoslovakia. Undoubtedly, however, they resonated in the minds of many a few years later, when in August 1968 they found themselves in a similar situation as the Hungarians in the mid-1950s. However, another revolutionary story was written, which Bohuslav Martinů did not live to see.

Vít Zouhar, Hudební rozhledy, 73/2020; Lidové noviny, 24/2017

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