Movement 1: Prologue. Allegretto: Marche
Movement 2: Tango: Lento
Movement 3: Charleston: Poco a poco allegro
Movement 4: Finale: Tempo di marcia
In 1930 the four pieces which make up the score were performed independently at the Concerts Cortot and were published as a concert suite the same year. The four pieces are ‘Prologue’, ‘Tango’, ‘Charleston’ and ‘Finale’, and the ‘orchestra’ consists of a sextet of clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano, a combination well suited to producing a sound similar to that of the typical Paris jazz bands of the period.
The ‘Prologue’ begins with a fanfare followed by a march in a perkily distorted rhythm. This is taken up and developed by the various instruments. In the ‘Tango’ first the cello, then muted trumpet, pizzicato strings and the bassoon in the upper register underline with lugubrious irony the ‘Spanish’ inflexions of a dance which was as much a craze in the ’20s as the Charleston. As if to emphasize the point the ‘Tango’ dissolves into the ‘Charleston’, the band picking up the new rhythm in a delicious re-creaction of collective improvisation. Milhaud, Copland and Gershwin have received more praise for their jazz works, but it could be argued convincingly that Martinu heard what jazz bands were doing more clearly and translated their style more accurately than any of them. The ‘Finale’ begins with a return to the initial fanfare, but goes on to realize the mood of rejoicing in echoes of James P Johnson’s classic Charleston and barely disguised references to other popular American dance tunes of the time.
from notes by Kenneth Dommett & Robert Matthew-Walker © 1998