LANSDOWNE

SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

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