Conducted by Krzysztof Urbański, the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest performs Bedřich Smetana’s famous symphonic poem “Vltava”, also known by its English name “The Moldau”. Recorded during the Sunday Morning Concert of April 2, 2017, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Conducted by Krzysztof Urbański, the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest performs Bedřich Smetana’s famous symphonic poem “Vltava”, also known by its English name “The Moldau”. Recorded during the Sunday Morning Concert of April 2, 2017, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Bedřich Smetana’s Vltava

Bedřich Smetana’s symphonic poem “Vltava,” known in English as “The Moldau,” is one of the most famous and beloved pieces of classical music, especially in the realm of nationalist compositions. It’s a part of a larger collection titled “Má Vlast,” which translates to “My Homeland.” This collection of six symphonic poems paints a musical portrait of Smetana’s native Bohemia, which is now a part of the Czech Republic.

The Moldau, “Vltava” specifically is the second poem in this series and was composed in 1874. The piece is a musical journey along the course of the Vltava River, which flows through the countryside of Bohemia and through Prague, the capital city. The music captures the beauty and the varied landscapes of the region, as well as the culture and history of the Czech people.

The composition begins with a unique, rippling theme that represents the two small springs, the sources of the Vltava River. These gentle streams then merge, and the music swells to depict the river’s grand journey through forests, meadows, and the countryside. There’s a sense of the river growing in size and strength as it flows.

Smetana ingeniously weaves in different thematic elements to represent various scenes and events along the river. For instance, there’s a segment that captures the sound of a peasant wedding, followed by a section representing moonlit nymphs dancing in the night. Then the music shifts to a more grand and stately theme, symbolizing the river’s flow through Prague, past historic sites like Vyšehrad castle.

The piece is notable for its use of musical nationalism, a trend where composers sought to express their national identity through music. Smetana does this not only through the depiction of Czech landscapes and legends but also through incorporating elements of traditional Czech music. The use of folk rhythms and melodies in “Vltava” is a direct nod to the rich cultural heritage of his homeland.

What makes “Vltava” extraordinary is how Smetana, who was profoundly deaf at the time of its composition, was able to capture the essence of the river so vividly. The piece is not just a literal depiction of the river’s journey; it’s also a metaphor for the resilience and continuity of the Czech people and their culture.

In terms of its structure, “Vltava” is a fine example of programmatic music, where the music is intended to evoke a specific idea or narrative. It’s often praised for its evocative power and the way it seamlessly blends scenes and moods.

Today, “Vltava” is celebrated not just in the Czech Republic but around the world. It’s a staple of classical music concerts and is often used in films, advertisements, and other media, showcasing its enduring appeal and universal message.

Vltava “The Moldau” has been featured in various movies, showcasing its cultural and artistic significance. Notable examples include:

  1. “The Kindness of Strangers” (2019): This film included “Ma vlast (My Fatherland): No. 2. Vltava (Moldau)” as part of its soundtrack, highlighting the emotional and narrative depth that Smetana’s composition can add to cinematic storytelling​.
  2. “The Tree of Life” (2011): In Terrence Malick’s acclaimed film, “My Country – Vltava (The Moldau)” was used, blending the philosophical themes of the movie with Smetana’s evocative music​.
  3. “Romero” (1989): This film, which is a biographical story of Archbishop Óscar Romero, used “The Moldau” to complement its powerful narrative.
  4. “The Search” (1948): In this post-World War II film, “Vltava (Moldau)” was featured, although it was uncredited, showcasing the timeless appeal of Smetana’s music across different eras and genres​

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened andantemoderato.com to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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