Here is another rare Martinů disc from the Czech label of labels, Supraphon.
After taking residence in Paris to study under Roussel, Martinů was surprised by the extent of Stravinsky's influence and a general flux in stylistic orientation due to frenetic experimentation. He became the leading Czech music correspondent in Paris, relating his discoveries about the Parisian music scene to the Czech cultural press. In his essays from this time, he frequently commented on the 'outdated' and 'Romantic' musical values he felt still persisted in Prague's musical life. Among the earliest results from his Parisian years was his "orchestral–rondo" "Half–time" (1924), a work clearly inspired by Stravinsky's Russian ballets. Although he rightly defended the work from being a Stravinskian plagiarism, his polemical essays imply his desire to provoke the Czech critics with the sounds of the Parisian milieu. "Half–time" was premiered in Prague in December 1924 by the Czech Philharmonic under Václav Talich, who would remain Martinů's most powerful ally at home until the fall of the First Czechoslovak Republic in 1938.
Half-time celebrates 'American football'. As a frenzied crowd of fans grows ever more excited in the midst of a tense soccer match, a melody emerges fortissimo in the strings and harmonized in thirds, an obvious folk-inspired gesture. This tune clearly represents the crowd, en masse, in an excited state. It is the only extended melodic passage in the entire piece, and as such vividly stands out.
With "La Bagarre" the wit and exploration of the 1920s Parisian avant-garde trend continues, but with even more interesting implications. This is the work Martinů boldly offered to Koussevitsky when he spotted the conductor at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, and which the Russian conductor premiered in America with the Boston Symphony Orchestra to critical acclaim. Martinů submitted the following program notes for that occasion:
"La Bagarre is charged with an atmosphere of movement, dash, tumult, obstruction. ‘Tis a movement in grand mass, in uncontrollable, violent rush. I dedicate the composition to the memory of Lindbergh landing at Bourget, which responds to my imagination, and expresses clearly its aim and evolution.
In this symphonic rondo, 2-2, I have portrayed the tension of spectators at a game of football (sic). ‘Bagarre’ is, properly speaking, an analogous subject, but multiplied, transported to the street. It’s a boulevard, a stadium, a mass, a quantity which is in delirium, clothed as a single body. It’s a chaos ruled by all the sentiments of enthusiasm, struggle, joy, sadness, wonder. It’s a chaos governed by a common feeling, an invisible bond, which pushes everything forward, which moulds numerous masses into a single element full of unexpected, uncontrollable events. It is grandly contrapuntal. All interests, great and small, disappear as secondary themes, and are fused at the same time in a new composition of movement, in a new expression of force, in a new form of powerful, unconquerable human mass."
"La Bagarre", properly speaking, is a triptych, in which the intermediate phrase, usually free, is replaced (apparently by a more melodious movement) by a quicker tempo than that of the first and third, ending in a violent, presto coda.
Thunderbolt P-47 is the famed American fighter plane of World War II which this fiery orchestral scherzo aims to describe. On that note, I have to finish writing this later, time for work unfortunately..