General information
Title CZNoc [auth.]
Subtitle CZNokturno. Meloplastická scéna v 1 aktu
Title ENThe Night
Subtitle ENNocturne. Meloplastic scene in 1 act
Title DEDie Nacht
Subtitle DENotturno: Meloplastische Szene in einem Aufzug
CategoryStage Works and Film Music
Halbreich number89
Instruments3332-4331-Timp-Batt-Xil-Camp-Cel-3Arpe-Pf-Archi; Coro femminile
Place of compositionPolička
Place of composition 2Prague
Year of origin1914
Initiation of composition1913
Completion of composition09.01.1914
First performance
Autograph deposition
Owner of the sourceCentrum Bohuslava Martinů v Poličce
CopyrightSchott Music Panton, Prague
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Keynote by Alois Kohout.
Title and subtitle on the title page of the autograph score: "Noc | Nocturno | meloplastická scéna v I actě".
About the composition

During his career, Martinů wrote at least sixteen ballet scores, ranging in length from the few minutes of Les mains, H 157bis, (dating from 1927 and only recently discovered) to three-act ballets such as Istar, H 130, or Špalíček, H 214. The majority are in one act and most of them were written in a fit of enthusiasm for some literary or other artistic phenomenon, without regard to the likelihood of their being performed. As a result, few of his ballets were staged during his lifetime and it has remained for later generations to discover their delights. Night, his first work in the genre, started this unfortunate trend. Martinů had been captivated by the performances of Russian actress and dancer Olga Vladimirovna Gzovska, a guest artist at the National Theatre in Prague during three seasons between 1912 and 1922. He wrote Night and The Shadow, H 102, expressly for her, as well as a third score, Tance se závoji (Dances with veils), H 93, now unfortunately lost.The two surviving one-act works last around an hour apiece but otherwise have very little in common. The Shadow employs a chamber orchestra and never has more than five dancers on the stage, whereas Night employs the corps de ballet and is scored for a very large orchestra, listed in full on the title page of the manuscript.  Although Gzowska is not mentioned here, one strange word on this title page betrays her influence. Below the three large letters of the Czech title come two subtitles; firstly Nocturno and then 'meloplastická scéna v 1 actě' – 'a meloplastic scene in 1 act'. The word 'meloplastic' means 'pertaining to the plastic restoration of a cheek.' This meaning derives from the Greek word for apple, a rosy apple serving as a metaphor for a rosy cheek. 'Meloplastic' as used on Martinů's title page, has a different etymology – melos, the many meanings of which include song, lyric poetry and of course melody. Gzowska's performances were often billed as 'meloplastic evenings' and appear to have been attempts to express contemporary music and poetry through the medium of dance. It is difficult to assess whether Night would have answered her requirements, but worth noting that in a long dance for the principal female (i.e. Gzowska) Martinů's manuscript gives unusually precise information not only about the character's emotions but also the gestures and expressions which should be used to portray them. The later Shadow, designated simply as a 'ballet' on its title page, is devoid of such information.

Mike Crump, Martinů Revue, 1/2021

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