Smetana The Moldau Vltava Program Notes
Bedrich Smetana wrote the tone poem The Moldau between 1874 and 1879. The Tone Poem (invented by Franz Liszt) is a somewhat free-form piece for symphony orchestra that has a story of some kind. In Smetana’s set of six, My Country, he depicts various Bohemian (Czech) scenes or stories, commencing with Vyšehrad, a high rock once occupied by an ancient Czech castle. Musically, one main motif embodies the castle, and it returns near the end of The Moldau, and again at the end of the cycle. Meaning for the six to be performed independently, they can make a good concert by themselves. Smetana’s intention to write classical music with a distinctively Czech sound was provocative, since the German-speaking Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled Bohemia. Smetana writes: The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer's wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night's moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John's Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German).
Born: March 2, 1824, Litomyšl, Czech Republic
Died: May 12, 1884, Prague, Czech Republic