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Die Moldau - Prague
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© Christine Till - CT-Graphics
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, lives around Vltava river (Moldau in German and many other Germanic languages, Moldva in Hungarian, unrelated to the Moldova river of Romania). Those who like architecture of old towns go for a walk along the river, starting at the Dancing House, continuing to the Rudolfinum, enjoying beautiful views of Prague's castle and bridges and all its stunning historic building on the other side.
Between 1874 and 1879 the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana composed a set of six symphonic poems called 'Má vlast' (traditionally translated as 'My Country', though more strictly meaning 'homeland'). One of these pieces is 'Vltava' also known by its German name 'Die Moldau'. It is Smetana's most famous tune, about 12 minutes long and written in E minor.
Smetana used tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia's great rivers. In his own words: 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).
The symphonic poem is an adaptation of the melody 'La Mantovana', attributed to the Italian renaissance tenor Giuseppe Cenci (also known as Giuseppino), which, in a borrowed Moldovan form, was also the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. The tune also appears in major in an old folk Czech song 'Kočka leze dírou '("The Cat Crawls Through the Hole") and Hans Eisler used it for his "Song of the Moldau".
June 12th, 2012
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