General information
Title CZPodivuhodný let
Subtitle CZmechanický balet
Title ENThe Amazing Flight
Subtitle ENa mechanical ballet
Title DEDer wunderbare Fernflug
Subtitle DEein mechanische Ballett
Title FRLe raid merveilleux [auth.]
Subtitle FRballet mécanique
CategoryStage Works and Film Music
Halbreich number159
Parts of the composition (movements)tableau 1: Un oiseau; tableau 2: Une hélice; tableau 3: Les cartes; tableau 4: Les réflecteurs et les affiches; tableau 5: La mer
Instruments2 Cl-Trp-Fg-Pf-Tam-tam-2 Vl- 2 Vla-Vc
List of characterswithout persons
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1927
Initiation of composition1927
Completion of composition17.09.1927
First performance
Nosek, Václav
Date of the first performance1994-06-25
Location of the first performancePolička (Tylův Dům)
Ensemble Státní filharmonie Brno, Václav Nosek (dir./cond.)
Autograph deposition
InstitutionBerlin State Library
Deposition locationBerlin
OwnerBerlin State Library
Note on the autograph depostitionFacsimile of the autograph score located at the Bohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička. *** Copy by copyist's hand located in the Czech Philharmonic Archive. *** Autograph text with directorial notes deposited in the National Library Archive in Prague.
CopyrightSchott Music Panton, Prague
Purchase linkbuy
References Related correspondence
Documents in the Library
Note Composed for the Théâtre Beriza.
About the composition

Le Raid merveilleux (The Amazing Flight) is described in the autograph score as "une pièce sans personnages — ballet mécanique". It thus belongs to the category of ballet blanche, a stage dance form in which a play of shadows and lights takes the place of the usual dramatis personae. Through this medium Martinů addresses the tragic fate of the two French airmen, Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who failed in their attempt to fly across the Atlantic on 8th May 1927, just two weeks before Charles Lindbergh. To Martinů, these two men epitomized modern heroes. One year after the work's completion, the composer commented on this subject in an article called On Contemporary Music: "Heroism does not manifest itself solely by a trombone flourish, nor does acceptance of fate always rise to the heights of sordino violin. Today's heroes are Nungesser and Coli, embodying tragedy, and Lindbergh as the symbol of triumph. Here we stand on firm ground. It is simpler, and it is also more humane. The tragic hero has now shed his haughtiness, his peculiarity."

The work's score was believed lost for many decades, until the early 1990s, when it was discovered by Iša Popelka in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek. However, what was then found was not the complete work, so following consultation with conductor Václav Nosek and with the approval of the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation, the score's final 19 bars were added by Evžen Zámetník. The music is completely abstract, without explicitly descriptive elements, limiting itself to the occasional use of universally recognizable signals (SOS. in Morse code). Martinů apparently did not write this music with Czechoslovak audiences in mind; instead, he was targeting the regular avant-garde French companies, such as the Théâtre Bériza, as well as the progressive German ones in Berlin and Dresden. Today we are witnessing a steep increase in productions from Martinů's jazz-inspired period as a whole, including this particular work: most recently, an outstanding television production has earned the director Jiff Nekvasil the Crystal Globe award from the Golden Prague International Festival of TV music programmes.

Aleš Březina, Martinů: Le Raid merveilleux, La Revue de cuisine, On tourne!, © 2004 Supraphon Music a.s

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