Friday, 2 March 2012

Ma Vlast

Bedrich Smetana's Ma Vlast (My Country) is a powerful musical evocation of the landscape and history of the Czech Republic. A cycle of six symphonic poems the music was composed by Smetana over a period of five years and first performed as a complete piece in 1882. The music expresses the Czech nationalism which has always been bound up with a love of the landscape and myths of nationhood. It is a heady, beautiful piece of music even to this non-Czech.

There are several wonderful CDs of Ma Vlast available but for me the most powerful is of a performance conducted by Vaclav Talich on 5th June 1939 in the National Theatre. The sound quality is limited by the equipment of the time, but this is a recording like no other. There is a fierce urgency in the music verging on violence, but then this is no ordinary performance. This is a performance in a country which has just been sold down the river to the Nazis. It is a brave statement of national pride and the audience knows it. At the end of the different movements there is applause and at the end the audience spontaneously begins to sing the national anthem, itself a brave act. When I heard it I was moved to tears.

The performance was broadcast by Czech Radio and would have been lost had not Norwegian Radio picked it up and recorded it.

You can sample this extraordinary recording on It is available to buy for £13.99

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