This week, we’ll be listening to “Ma Vlast” translated “My Country” by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. Last week, we listened to “In the Steppes of Central Asia,” which was a symphonic poem describing a caravan traveling through northern Asia. ”My Country” is a set of six symphonic poems written between 1874 and 1879 that describe Smetana’s homeland of Bohemia. We’ll be listening to “Vltava” also known by its German name “The Moldau.” According to Smetana, the piece describes the Moldau River as it winds through the countryside, through farmlands where a farmer is celebrating a wedding, past mermaids dancing in the moonlight, past castles and ruins, towards the city of Prague, and ending at the Labe River in Germany.
Our video this week features a full symphony orchestra. If you’re not familiar with the sections of the orchestra, let me give you a tour! The first violins are on the left as you face the conductor. The second violins are next to them. The first violins play primarily melody, and the second violins play primarily harmony. The cellos are to the right of the conductor. Between the violins and cellos are the violas. A viola is slightly larger than a violin, and it is missing the highest string of the violin (the E) and has a low C string instead. It has an overall lower and more mellow sound than a violin. Behind the cellos are the string basses. Bass players stand to play or sit on a tall stool. In the middle of the orchestra behind the strings are the winds (flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon) and the brass (trumpets, trombones, and french horns). Percussion is at the very back, and this performance also features a harp – located behind the first violins.
The flutes start out this piece – very beautiful and sounds like water flowing! Watch for the strings plucking their instruments at the beginning.
Enjoy the music!