General information
Title CZZbojnické písně
Subtitle CZdeset mužských sborů
Title ENBrigand Songs
Subtitle ENten male choruses
Title DERebellenlieder
Subtitle DEzehn Männerchöre
CategoryVocal Music
Halbreich number361
Parts of the composition (movements)First series: 1. The Shepherds; 2. The Feast; 3. They are Building; 4. Johnny Rides Fast; 5. In the Green Forest *** Second series: 1. Who Do They Belong to; 2. Brave Lads Drinking; 3. Hills So High; 4. Ej, Janík; 5. By the White Mountain [For original titles, see the Czech version of the catalogue.]
Durata26' 35''
InstrumentsCoro maschile (TTBB)
Dedicatee Pěvecké sdružení moravských učitelů
Pěvecké sdružení pražských učitelů
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationVěnováno Pěveckému sdružení pražských učitelů [I]; Věnováno Pěveckému sdružení moravských učitelů [II]
Note on the dedicationDedicated to the Prague Teachers' Choir (I) and to the Moravian Teachers' Choir (II). Dedication on the first page of the 1st or the 2nd series in the printed score (SNKLHU, 1959).
Place of compositionRome
Year of origin1957
Initiation of composition08.01.1957
Completion of composition20.01.1957
First performance
Performer dir./cond.: Miroslav Venhoda (I); Jan Šoupal (II)
Šoupal, Jan
Venhoda, Miroslav
Date of the first performance1957-04-11
Location of the first performancePrague (I); Brno (II)
Ensemble Pěvecké sdružení pražských učitelů (I); Pěvecké sdružení moravských učitelů (II)
Pěvecké sdružení moravských učitelů
Pěvecké sdružení pražských učitelů
Autograph deposition
InstitutionBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
Deposition locationPolička
OwnerBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
Note on the autograph depostitionFull autograph score and sketches of songs no. 1, 3 and 4 from the first series.
CopyrightBärenreiter Praha
CopyrightBärenreiter Praha
Státní nakladatelství krásné literatury, hudby a umění, Prague, 1959
Call number at the BM Institute: 1009
Specification of the edition: 1st edition
Details of this edition
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Two series. *** Lyrics from Moravian and Slovakian folk poetry. *** German translation by Kurt Honolka, English translation by John Clapham.
About the composition

Martinů began working on one of his cantatas, The Legend of the Smoke from Potato Tops, H 360 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. 

Venhoda has been asking composers for a new composition for a male choir since October. But only this time, and certainly not by chance, he enclosed a collection of folk songs about brigands. And it was thanks to her that Martinů felt the opportunity to express his protest even better. He replaced the current passive resistance with direct stimuli for active resistance in Czechoslovakia. From today's point of view, this way may seem naive, but at the time it was a completely legitimate effort, based on the experience of World War II. Martinů, therefore, set to music folk verses about brigands in a very short time, creating a cycle of male choirs called Brigand Songs, H 361.

As we know today, neither the premiere of Brigand Songs, H 361, nor the release of The Legend of the Smoke from Potato Tops, H 360 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, Lidové noviny, 24/2017

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