Ma Vlast (My Country / Homeland) is a set of six symphonic poems composed between 1874 and 1879 by the Czech composer Bedrich 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.
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 (a historic region occupying modern day Czech Republic).
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.
Smetana on "Vltava"/"Moldau"
Antoni Wit and his excellent Polish National Radio Orchestra give us a superbly played and consistently imaginative account. The spacious opening of Vysehrad, marginally slower than usual, glows with romantic evocation; equally the flutes, trickling down from the sources of the Vltava, captivate the ear and the famous string-tune is unusually gracious and relaxed. The opening of Sarka brings tingling melodrama, which subsides naturally for the jaunty theme which follows. From Bohemia's Woods and Fields opens with opulent expansiveness, and later the ethereal high string entry is exquisitely made. Tabor develops great weight and gravitas. The warm resonance of the Concert Hall of Polish Radio in Katowice seems right for this very individual reading, full of fantasy, which goes automatically to the top of the list alongside Kubelik's distinguished, and justly renowed, 1990 Czech Philharmonic version on Supraphon, which is rather special. - Penguin Guide 4/5
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