The Moldau

SUNDAY, November 17, 2019

Bedřich Smetana, 2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884…

Smetena was born 17 years before Antonín Dvořák, one of my favorite composers, and although he never attained the same degree of world fame as Dvorak (usually spelled without the extra accents in the West.)

Má vlast, My homeland..

This is a tone poem in six parts and is easily Smetena’s most popular work, but today we mainly hear the second part, My homeland.

It sort of “went viral” all over the world, so it was, is and probably will remain both famous and popular in the future. That one famous tone poem is:

Vltava, The Moldau…

The Moldau is a famous river in what is now known as the Czech Republic:

Here is the tone poem that is most famous…

The rest of the story, here is the whole thing…

  1. Vyšehrad (The High Castle)
    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’.
  2. Vltava (The Moldau)
    This describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, then all the way until it endsending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German.)
  3. 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.
  4. Z českých luhů a hájů (From Bohemia’s woods and fields)
    The beauty of the Czech countryside and its people, the tone poem tells no real story. It was oginally written to be the finale of Má vlast.
  5. 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”).
  6. Blaník
    This is about an army of knights led by St. Wenceslas. Blaník was finished on 9 March 1879 and premiered on 4 January 1880. It is named for the mountain Blaník.  A legend says that inside this mountain a huge army of knights led by St. Wenceslas sleep. The knights will awake and help the country in its gravest hour.


3 thoughts on “The Moldau

  1. I was only really familiar with the Moldau movement; knew little about Smetana other than the name. Thank you for putting this all together in one place. I love the music and the “painting” that it paints in sound. I was not able to read and listen to everything in one visit, and intend to come back for the rest.

  2. The Moldau- Listening to this music I can picture the water flowing peacefully, reaching a turbulent spot then becoming peaceful once again. There is a point which sounds like people dancing. I can also hear a recurring theme. The piece comes to an unexpected ending.


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