Bohuslav Martinů: La Revue de Cuisine Suite


One of the leading Czech composers during the 20th Century, Bohuslav Martinů wrote over 400 works, including 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a huge body of chamber and orchestral works. After finding his feet in the style of Neoclassicism, Martinů used Igor Stravinsky as a model for his own works. Being taught by the likes of Josef Suk and being educated all over Europe, Martinů’s style encompasses lots of different styles and genres.


The Music

La Revue de Cuisine is a ballet in one act that is accompanied by a sextet of instruments including: clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano. The ballet music was composed in 1927, with the ballet premiering in Prague that same year. Martinů, like many others, created a short orchestral suite of some of the music from the ballet, and this was completed shortly after the premiere of the ballet and received its premiere in January 1930 in Paris.


Movement I – Prologue 

Opening with a cheeky trumpet solo, the Prologue straight away shows Martinů’s desire to mix the old with the new. With the set up of this quirky sextet, the music hones into some of the traditions of jazz happening over the pond in the USA. The piano plays a big role throughout the suite, with the woodwind and trumpet often taking soloistic roles. The music is ever-shifting time signature and harmony, which creates a lot of interest within the music. 


Movement II – Tango 

This slow tango opens with a phrase, however the subtle silence leads to an ominous theme played by the cello. The muted trumpet enters with its own theme, which is accompanied by a tango-esque accompaniment. There are a lot of sporadic themes here and Martinů pushes the dynamic boundaries of the ensemble. 


Movement III – Charleston

Opening with an intricate bassoon solo, the quirky Charleston movement is slowly built up. As more voices enter the mix, the faster the tempo becomes. As the clarinet takes the upper line with the piano, sounds we hear later in time from the likes of Gershwin and Bernstein are played out. The jazz influences in this movement are the most noticeable, with the classic Charleston rhythms being played by the piano throughout. This movement is playful and full of character.


Movement IV – Finale 

The time signature structure for the finale is complex and as it switches unpredictably throughout. All instruments in the sextet are featured in this last work of both the suite and the ballet. As themes weave together, a more pastoral atmosphere can be appreciated in parts. Interjections of the Charleston theme and more can be heard throughout, and this ties the movements together neatly. A sweet duet between the muted trumpet and violin breaks out, with the ensemble providing light accompaniment. The suite finishes with a sparkling culmination of two themes that unite the ensemble.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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