Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Tale of a River

Another of the pieces the Lincoln Youth Symphony is working on for their November concert is Smetana's "Moldau," a very famous symphonic poem that depicts the Moldau (the German name)or Vltava (the Czech name)River, the longest river in the Czech Republic.

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) was a nationalist romantic Czech composer of the 19th century. He is considered the father of Czech music. Although he wrote all sorts of music, he is best remembered for his opera "The Bartered Bride" and for his cycle of symphonic poems "Ma vlast (My country)," of which the Moldau is the second one, written in 1874, and premiered in 1875,

A symphonic poem or tone poem is an orchestral work in one movement that depicts, illustrates or evokes a story, a painting, a place, or some other non-musical content. Smetana's "Moldau" depicts the course of the river through the country. He wrote his publisher about his work:

"The work depicts the course of the river Vltava, beginning from the two small sources, the cold and warm Vltava, the joining of both streams into one, then the flow of the Vltava through forests and across meadows, through the countryside where gay festivals are just being celebrated; by the light of the moon a dance of wter nymphs; on the nearby cliffs proud castles, mansions and ruins rise up; the Vltava swirls in the St. John's rapids, flows in a broad stream as far as Prague, the Vysehrad appears, and finally the river disappears in the distance as it flows majestically into the Elbe."

That description can be followed through the music, with the initial source of the river depicted by the flutes starting in the first measure, and the second source inverted in the clarinets a few measures later. You might want to listen for a hunt in the forest or polka strains of a country wedding, and the broad melodies as the stream becomes a river.

You can hear the "Moldau" at the Lincoln Youth Symphony concert on Sunday, November 11, 2012, 3 p.m., at Lincoln Southwest High School. The concert is free.

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