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Thomas Guggeis conducts Smetana: Má Vlast

Bedřich Smetana is considered the father of modern Czech music, pioneering a musical style that expressed the national spirit and aspirations of the Czech people. Má vlast (My Country), a six-movement symphonic poem, is his best-known work. Written throughout the 1870s and premiered in 1882, Smetana initially conceived as a set of separate works based on a variety of Bohemian legends and landscapes: in his description, the work would present “musical pictures of Czech glories and defeats.” Most famous and widely performed is the second movement, an eloquent depiction of the Vlata River (in German, the Moldau), which was based on the sixteenth-century Italian melody 'La Mantonava' by Giuseppe Cenci. The movement begins with soft rippling passages to represent the origins of the Moldau River as two mountain springs, before a lush and sonorous orchestral theme portray the opening of a grand river. The signature melody from 'The Moldau' reappears throughout later movements, where the river passes by hunters, a village wedding and a mysterious gorge said to be the home of water nymphs that bathe in the moonlight. In the morning, the river flows through St John's Rapid in sudden dissonance, before restoring calm at the arrival of the castle Vyšehrad in Prague. Scored for a rich orchestral ensemble, Ma vlast is a deeply patriotic work, a love letter by the composer to his native Bohemia. However, its underlying themes of nature, belonging, and shared identity has given it a widespread appeal which continues to inspire.

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