Bedřich Smetana


Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: about 12 minutes
Genre: symphonic poem
Time of Creation: 1874
World Premiere: 04 April 1875 (Prague)

Table of Contents

Smetana's Moldau in 5 Sentences

In Moldau, Czech composer Bedřich Smetana musically traces the course of the river of the same name. The piece is the second part from the cycle “My Fatherland”. Smetana indicated in the score exactly which stations of the Vltava are represented. Thus, as a listener, one can follow the course of the river from its sources to its final, broad “flow”. The piece is considered a milestone of program music.

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Smetana's Moldau

Highlight 1: The Moldau Theme

Almost everyone has heard this theme before – it represents the Moldau:

Highlight 2: The forest hunt

Immediately after the Moldau theme, the listener witnesses a forest hunt with fanfare-like interjections:

Highlight 3: Moonlight – Nymph Round Dance

This episode marks quite precisely the middle of the composition. It is a night piece in which one can literally listen to the moon rising:

Highlight 4: The Moldau flows broadly along

Smetana takes up the Moldau theme once again in increased tempo and thus ends the piece:

3 Questions and Answers about Smetana's Moldau

Question 1: What are the names of the stations of Smetana’s Moldau?

1) The two sources of the Moldau
2) Moldau (main theme)
3) Forest hunt
4) Peasant wedding
5) Moonlight – Nymphs round dance
6) Moldau (reprise)
7) St. John Rapids
8) The Moldau flows broadly along
9) Vyšehrad motif and disappearing in the distance

Question 2: Why was the Moldau composed?

The Moldau is part of the cycle “My Fatherland”, with which the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana created a musical monument to the burgeoning national feeling of the Czechs in the 19th century.

Question 3: Was Smetana a successful composer?

Smetana had success in his lifetime with only two works: the opera “The Bartered Bride” and the cycle “My Fatherland”, which includes the Moldau.

2 Recommended Recordings of Smetana's Moldau

Recording 1: WDR Symphony Orchestra, Semyon Bychkov (Live, 2019)

For those who would like to hear the entire cycle of “My Fatherland”, the performance of the WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Semyon Bychkov is recommended:

Recording 2: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antoni Wit (Studio, 1994)

Also recommended: The studio recording of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Antoni Wit:

1 Quote about Smetana's Moldau

The night descends to earth, the wedding jubilation falls silent, mysterious silence lies over the land. In the pale moonlight, mermaids and nymphs now animate the banks and swing their round dance above the shining silver waves, while castles and palaces tower up on the slopes as serious and silent witnesses of past glory – memorials of past greatness and glory.

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