Má vlast is a set of six symphonic poems composed between 1874 and 1879 by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. While it is often presented as a single work in six movements, the six pieces were conceived as individual works, and 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 Bohemia.
The most famous of these is Vltava, also known as The Moldau or Die Moldau, which uses tone-painting to depict the river. It was composed between 20 November and 8 December 1874 and was premiered on April 4, 1875 under conductor Adolf Čech. It is about 13 minutes long.
Smetana himself described the composition this way:
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).
Vltava contains Smetana’s most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the melody La Mantovana, attributed to the Italian renaissance tenor, Giuseppe Cenci, 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.
This arrangement includes historical data.
Key: A minor
Mood: rolling, with gentle motion
Pedagogy: rolled chords, fingering, dynamics