27 Oct 2018

SMETANA: Vltava (The Moldau)

From Music Alive, 8:00 pm on 27 October 2018

The poetic journey of a famous river from its trickling sources through to the mighty capital city and beyond.

Vltava in Prague

Vltava in Prague Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) was a nationalist composer from Bohemia, part of what is now the Czech Republic.

Smetana Monument in Prostějov

Smetana Monument in Prostějov Photo: CC SA by 3.0

Ma Vlast’, or 'My Homeland', is a set of six symphonic poems he wrote in the late 1870’s.

Vltava, or ‘The Moldau’ is the second and most well-known of the six, and it describes the sounds of one of Bohemia’s great rivers, starting from two small springs, their unification into one stream (bringing forth Smetana’s most memorable tune), and passing through various landscapes.

There's a forest, a hunting party (listen for the horns), and the scene of a farmer’s wedding celebration, complete with polka.

The day draws to a close, and nymphs appear at the water’s edge and begin to dance. After a while the stream broadens out into a full, fast-flowing river.

Vltava river continues through the dramatic St John’s Rapids, and past the ancient fortress of Vyšerad, then on towards the beautiful capital city of Prague, finally vanishing into the distance.

The meandering Vltava River

The meandering Vltava River Photo: CC-BY-SA-2.5

  •       The famous melody on which the piece is based isn’t actually original. Smetana adapted it from an Italian Renaissance tune, La Mantovana, and it’s even been used as the basis for the Israeli National Anthem.
  •       Smetana became afflicted with severe tinnitus, leading to deafness. As a result he was not able to hear four of his six 'Ma Vlast' symphonic poems.  
  •       Vyšerad castle was something of a symbol of Czech freedom. Fittingly, Smetana himself is buried in a cemetery on the site of that legendary fortress.

Orchestra Wellington is conducted by Marc Taddei

Recorded by RNZ Concert, 18 October 2018 in Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Producer: David McCaw

Engineer: Graham Kennedy

Vltava in Prague

Vltava in Prague Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0

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