Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra (Zdeněk Košler) – Má vlast (My Country) (Smetana) (1977)

FrontCover1Má vlast (Czech pronunciation: [maː vlast], meaning “My homeland” in the Czech language) is a set of six symphonic poems composed between 1874 and 1879 by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. While it is often presented as a single work in six movements and – with the exception of Vltava – is almost always recorded that way, the six pieces were conceived as individual works. They had their own separate premieres between 1875 and 1880; the premiere of the complete set took place on 5 November 1882 in Žofín Palace, Prague, under Adolf Čech, who had also conducted two of the individual premieres.

In these works Smetana combined the symphonic poem form pioneered by Franz Liszt with the ideals of nationalistic music which were current in the late nineteenth century. Each poem depicts some aspect of the countryside, history, or legends of Bohemia.

Since 1952 the works have been performed to open the Prague Spring International Music Festival on 12 May, the anniversary of the death of their composer.

Vyšehrad (The High Castle)
The first poem, Vyšehrad (The High Castle), composed between the end of September and 18 November 1874 and premiered on 14 March 1875, describes the Vyšehrad castle in Prague which was the seat of the earliest Czech kings. During the summer of 1874, Smetana began to lose his hearing, and total deafness soon followed; he described the gradual, but rapid loss of his hearing in a letter of resignation to the director of the Royal Provincial Czech Theatre, Antonín Čížek. In July 1874 he began hearing anomalous noise and then a permanent buzzing. Not long after the onset he was unable to distinguish individual sounds. At the beginning of October he lost all hearing in his right ear, and finally on 20 October in his left. His treatment was based on maintaining isolation from all sounds, but was unsuccessful. The poem begins with the sounds of the harp of the mythical singer Lumír, and then crosses over into the tones of the castle’s arsenal. This section of the music introduces the main motifs, which are used in other parts of the cycle. A four note motif (B♭-E♭-D-B♭) represents the castle of Vyšehrad; this is heard again at the end of ‘Vltava’ and once more, to round the whole cycle off, at the conclusion of ‘Blaník’.

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Vysehrad

In the score two harps are required to perform the opening arpeggios. After a dominant seventh chord, the winds take up the theme, followed by the strings, before the whole orchestra is employed to reach a climax. In the next part, Smetana recalls the story of the castle, using a faster tempo which becomes a march. A seemingly triumphant climax is cut short by a descending passage depicting the collapse of the castle, and the music falls quiet. Then the opening harp material is heard again and the music reminds again of the beauty of the castle, now in ruins. The music ends quietly, depicting the River Vltava flowing below the castle.

Conceived between 1872 and 1874, it is the only piece in the cycle to be mostly completed before Smetana began to go noticeably deaf in the summer of 1874. Most performances last approximately fifteen minutes in duration.

Vltava (The Moldau) 
Vltava, also known by its English name The Moldau, and in German Die Moldau, was composed between 20 November and 8 December 1874 and was premiered on 4 April 1875 under Adolf Čech. It is about 13 minutes long, and is in the key of E minor.

In this piece, Smetana uses tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia’s great rivers. In his own words:

The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer’s wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night’s moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John’s Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German).

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Vltava

Vltava contains Smetana’s most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the melody La Mantovana, attributed to the Italian renaissance tenor, Giuseppe Cenci,[6] which, in a borrowed Romanian form, was also the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. The tune also appears in an old Czech folk song, Kočka leze dírou (“The Cat Crawls Through the Hole”); Hanns Eisler used it for his “Song of the Moldau”; and Stan Getz performed it as “Dear Old Stockholm” (probably through another derivative of the original tune, “Ack Värmeland du sköna”).

Šárka
The third poem was finished on 20 February 1875 and is named for the female warrior Šárka, a central figure in the ancient Czech legend of The Maidens’ War. Šárka ties herself to a tree as bait and waits to be saved by the princely knight Ctirad, deceiving him into believing that she is an unwilling captive of the rebelling women. Once released by Ctirad, who has quickly fallen in love with her, Šárka serves him and his comrades with drugged mead and once they have fallen asleep she sounds a hunting horn: an agreed signal to the other women. The poem ends with the warrior maidens falling upon and murdering the sleeping men. It was first performed under the baton of Adolf Čech (sources disagree whether this was on 10 December 1876 or 17 March 1877).

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Šárka and Ctirad

Smetana finished composing this piece, the title of which means “From Bohemia’s woods and fields”, on 18 October 1875 and received its first public performance nearly eight weeks later, on 10 December. A depiction of the beauty of the Czech countryside and its people, the tone poem tells no real story. The first part is dedicated to the grandeur of the forest with a surprising fugue in the strings, interrupted by a soft woodland melody of the horns, which is later taken over by the whole orchestra. In the second part, a village festival is depicted in full swing. This tone poem was originally written to be the finale of Má vlast.

Tábor
This piece, which was finished on 13 December 1878 and premiered on 4 January 1880, is named for the city of Tábor in the south of Bohemia founded by the Hussites and serving as their center during the Hussite Wars. The theme for the piece is quoted from the first two lines of the Hussite hymn, “Ktož jsú boží bojovníci” (“Ye Who Are Warriors of God”).

Tabor.jpg

Tábor

Blaník
Blaník was finished on 9 March 1879 and premiered on 4 January 1880. It is named for the mountain Blaník inside which a legend says that a huge army of knights led by St. Wenceslas sleep. The knights will awake and help the country in its gravest hour (sometimes described as four hostile armies attacking from all cardinal directions).

Musically, Blaník begins exactly as Tábor ends, “hammering” out the motto which was left unresolved, but now continuing on, as if in the aftermath of the battle. Thus these last two tone poems of the cycle form a cohesive pair, as do the first two; the High Castle’s theme returns as the Vltava’s river journey triumphantly reaches that same destination, and again returns triumphantly at the end of Blaník.

An army of knights led by St. Wenceslas.jpg

An army of knights led by St. Wenceslas

Once again, the Hussite hymn used in Tábor is quoted, though this time it is the third line which rings out in the march at the end of the piece. The original lyrics to this line in the hymn are “so that finally with Him you will always be victorious”, a reference to the eventual victorious rise of the Czech state. (by wikipedia)

This version was conducted by Zdeněk Košler

Zdeněk Košler (March 25, 1928 – July 2, 1995) was a Czechoslovak conductor, who played an important role in Czechoslovak musical life of the second half of 20th century, notably during the sixties and the eighties. He was particularly well known as an opera conductor.

Zdenek Košler

Zdeněk Košler

Košler came from a musical family. His father was a member of the Prague National Theatre Orchestra, and his younger brother Miroslav was a choirmaster.

After finishing his studies at the gymnasium, he enrolled at the AMU in Prague. In 1948, still as a student, he began to work as a répétiteur at the Prague’s National Theatre. In that time he began also to gain some experience with the baton. In 1949 Košler joined the Olomouc opera, where he conducted works by Leoš Janáček (The Makropulos Affair) and by W. A. Mozart (Così fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro). In 1959 he won the International Young Conductors Competition in Besançon, France, and in 1963 he won the respected Mitropoulos conducting competition in New York, together with Claudio Abbado and the Argentinian Pedro Ignacio Calderón, after which he became assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic for one year. From 1962 to 1964 Košler was appointed to the Opera in Ostrava. He worked also with foreign ensembles and opera houses, conducted Richard Strauss’s opera Salome at the Vienna State Opera, performed the complete cycle of Dvořák’s symphonies with the Vienna Symphony. In the late sixties he also became the guest-conductor at the Comic Opera in Berlin. Košler was hired as the second conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and became the principal conductor of the Bratislava opera house in 1971. From 1980 to 1984 he also led the orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague. He retired in 1992.

Zdeněk Košler was well known outside Czechoslovakia,[citation needed] as he recorded works by Mozart, Dvořák and Tchaikovsky in Barking Town Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and made concert tours to Austria, United States, and Canada. He toured most often to Japan, where he performed with various orchestras thirty times. (by wikipedia)

What should I say: This is a real masterpiece in the history of classic music … Listen !!!

Recorded in the Concert Hall of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, March 1977
12 page booklet with liner notes in czech and english

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Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

Personnel:
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zdeněk Košler

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Tracklist:
01. Vysehrad 15.16
02. Vltava 12.01
03. Sarka 9.44
04. From Bohemia’s Woods And Pastures 12.53
05. Tabor 12.42
06. Blanik 14.38

Composed by Bedrich Smetana

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Various Artists – Royal Clown Classic – The Sampler (1989)

FrontCover1The Pilz Media Group (founded by Reiner E. Pilz) was a small German record label for classic music (not to be confused with Pilz Records, the legendary label for German Krautrock music.

They were first marketed in the USA in a gigantic mail order package of 100 CDs at a cost of about $5 per disk, offering the “Vienna Master Series” of major symphonic, chamber, and piano repertoire. Lately they have been turning up on single disks and even in double disk sets at the cost of only $3.99 or even less for 2 CDs, or $1 to $2 per single disk, at dealers like Blockbuster Music.

They released at the end of the Eighties this sampler with music from their Catalog.

Booklet01AAnd so you can hear some of the finest pieces of classical musc. The booklet is their catalog for the years 1989/90 … (black + white pictures only !)

Unfortunately they didn´t give us any informations about the musicians and orchestras we can hear on this beautiful record.

But … even this mistake … it´s a sampler with very fine examples of classic music, including “Vltava (The Moldau) ” (one of my favorite classic composition)

Booklet03ATracklist:

Franz von Suppé:
01. Ouvertüre “Dichter Und Bauer” 9.34

Johann Strauss:
02. Wiener Blut Op. 354 9.26

Frederic Chopin:
03. Walzer Cis-moll Op. 64/2 3.31

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
04. Symphonie Nr. 40 G-moll Kv 550, Molto Allegro 6.35

Antonio Vivaldi:
05. Concerto Grosso A-moll Allegro 3.57

Johann Sebastian Bach:
06. Toccata und Fuge D-moll  8.28

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
07. Swan-Lake Suite 3.10

Bedřich Smetana:
08. Vltava (The Moldau)  12.52

Richard Wagner:
09. Ouvertüre zu Tannhäuser 14.39

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Raphael Kubelik – My Country (Smetana) (1990)

FrontCover1This CD preserves a remarkable concert that marked the return of Rafael Kubelik to Czechoslovakia after an absence of 41 years. The conductor was in ill health, and had been some time. In fact, just after he returned to his native land in 1989, Maestro Kubelik fell seriously ill and it seemed that would die. But he miraculously recovered and conducted this concert on May 12, 1990.

My Country is a work that was very dear to Maestro Kubelik, and one he conducted and recorded it on many occasions. This recording is certainly among the best. From beginning to end there is a sense of occasion, a true celebration of the patriotism that lies behind the music Smetena wrote. There is a passion to the playing by the Czech Philharmonic that truly brings out the poetry and fire in this music, to say nothing of the emotion underlying this performance. The audience is incredibly silent during the performance, as if stunned into silence. The only applause comes at the end of Blanik.
So, even if you already have a recording of Ma Vlast, this one should also be in your collection.

Smetana’s symphonic poem cycle “Ma Vlast” (My Fatherland) based on six movements which, the second is ever-famous “Moldau”. This cycle (as in name) tells about Czechoslovakia’s historic lands and legends. As you know, Moldau is the famous river.

The Vltava PragueThe Vltava in Prague

The other movements are:
1. Vysherad is the castle which protect the capital Prague in 13th century.

3. Sarka is the woman-hero who was lived in 13th century. She was fighted with Frenchs and but their general was fall in love to Sarka. So, she (with her charm) was deceived and then she invited the some of Frenchs for drink wine. Then, all of them (except Sarka) gets drunk and Sarka, secretly was added a poison which make them sleepy. So, all of them sleeps, and then Sarka calls her Czech army with her horn. And gradullay they comes, and all of them kills Frenchs (with their general), while they’re sleeping!

5. Tabor is the army of the country and then 6. Blanik is the contiuation of Tabor. Blanik is the mountain which, the army’s shelter, while they’re waiting the “war alarm”. But, this movement ends with a triumphal finale, which includes the main “Vysherad” and “God’s Warriors” chorale. This work is very succesful example of patriotic music and it is to affect nationalism.

This is the final concert of Rafael Kubelik and he conducted this in his 86th age!
He was reurned in this year after his full succesful years in all Europe and USA in 1940-80’s. “My Fatherland” indeed, absolutely…

KubelikPersonel:
Czech Philharmonica Orchestra conducted by Raphael Kubelik

Inlet1ATracklist:
01. Vyschrad /Smetana) 15.40
02. Vlatava (Semetana) 11.35
03. Sarka (Smetana) 9.43
04. Zceskych luhu a hajo (Smetana) 13.09
05. Tabor (Smetana) 12.39
06. Blanik (Smetana) 14.13

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