25 April 2009

Smetana's inspiration?

While we're on the subject of Czech musicians, Bedřich Smetana is well known at home and abroad as the composer of Má vlast (My Fatherland), the most famous movement of which has to be Vltava, or Die Moldau, as it is better known elsewhere. This movement is often recorded and performed alone, which is how I remember hearing it as a child, when it became one of my favourites. In general, I'm not a fan of the romantic era, but Smetana's piece deserves a place in anyone's repertoire. Here it is performed by the legendary Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

The Vltava flows through the Czech capital Prague, easily the most beautiful city in Europe. I was privileged to visit this remarkable place in 1976 and thus saw for myself the river celebrated in Smetana's piece. From Prague it flows into the Elbe and eventually into the Baltic Sea.

According to a humorous Czech television advertisement, Smetana may have been inspired to write Vltava by the bubbles in a glass of the country's most famous beer, Pilsner Urquell. If only Canadian beer commercials featured such fine music!

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