Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bedřich Smetana - Má Vlast (The Moldau)

Somehow in all my travels (almost 40 countries) I never made it to Prague.  Prague, of course, is on the river Vlast, better known to non-Czech speakers by its German name, the Moldau.  Smetana wrote what is undoubtably his most famous composition about this river.  If you, like me, grew up with classical music, you've heard this.  It's likely in any list of "Top 100classical music pieces".  Maybe most top 50 lists.

Smetana was an interesting character, from an interesting time.  He lived in the middle of the 19th century, a time of political upheaval (he participated in the Revolution of 1848).  Most of his children died of childhood diseases, and his wife died of tuberculosis.  He had to leave Prague to make his living, going to Sweden.  Making some fame and (not quite fortune), he returned to Prague, only to end up going mad and living out his last days in an asylum.

But his music has become a focus of Czech patriotic musical fervor.  In this, he was part of a 19th century wave, including Edvard Grieg, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Sir Edward Elgar.  If you like this period of classical music, you'll like him.  I sure do.


libertyman said...

Funny how people write songs (symphony music) about rivers. The Beautiful Blue Danube for example. Maybe Old Man River in the U.S.

Beautiful music , and as you suggest, a standard.

Good class today.

Ken said...

A favorite. All of Ma Vlast is good -- so is The Bartered Bride.

Aaron said...

Interestingly enough, The Moldau is the music the Israeli anthem Hatikvah is based on, and it's one of the few national anthems in a minor key.