Bohuslav Martinů: Selanka from Kytice

Bohuslav Martinů, photo: Archive of Polička Town Museum

The twentieth century did not produce many hits of classical music. It was not an overly melodic century, both figuratively and literally. Nevertheless, some truly beautiful melodies did emerge in the world of music. For instance, in the work of Bohuslav Martinů, who masterfully combined melody with themes celebrating nature. One example of this ability is his composition "Selanka".

Photo: Panton

Bohuslav Martinů’s Selanka is an extraordinarily lyrical composition, and its melody honestly portrays Czech identity. The piece is very characteristic of its composer and contains elements of the famous Opening of the Wells, which he wrote twenty years later.

Studánky, as Opening of the Wells is often referred to in Czech, might be even more famous. However, it is not a hit in the true sense of the word. It is in fact a series of grandiose cantatas consisting of poetic, humorous, and playful musical fragments along with some truly beautiful themes. Selanka, on the other hand, is more of a stand-alone and compact composition. It is rather extraordinary that Martinů wrote it when he did, as that time, he was composing a completely different type of music.

Jan Zrzavý

Selanka was written in Paris in 1937, and Martinů even dedicated the work to his fellow artist, painter Jan Zrzavý. The piece is part of Kytice — a series of interconnected cantatas ordered into two parts. The whole composition is meant to be sung by four soloists, a mixed choir, and a children’s choir. It is extremely touching music accompanied by a small ensemble numbering less than thirty musicians.

The Best of Czech classical music series was created on the basis of Lukáš Hurník's and Bohuslav Vítek's project "Millenium hits" which was broadcast on Czech Radio Vltava.

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