About this Recording
2.110531 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - CZECH REPUBLIC: A Musical Tour of the Country's Past and Present (NTSC)

A Musical Tour of the Czech Republic
With music by Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák


Prague and the Czech Countryside

The great River Vltava (the Moldau) flows through the fields of Bohemia to the capital city, Prague, with its bridges, churches and fine public buildings, evidence of its past glory.

Music   Smetana: Vltava

The symphonic poem Vltava is one of a cycle of six such works under the title Má Vlast (My Country) by the first of the great Czech nationalist composers, Bedřich Smetana. The River Vltava, the second of the cycle, flows on with growing majesty, after the gentle ripples with which it begins, passing through the countryside, witness to the events of past history. [Recommended recordings Naxos 8.550376 and 8.550931]


Some twenty miles north of Prague, where the River Vltava joins the Elbe, the Bohemian Pšovan Dynasty, in the 9th century, built the castle of Mělník. Over the centuries the castle underwent various changes so that it now represents influences of the Gothic, the Renaissance and the Baroque.

Music   Dvořák: Rusalka – Polonaise

The son of a Bohemian village butcher-cum-inn-keeper, Dvořák established himself as a leading composer in the second half of the 19th century, drawing constant inspiration from his native region. His penultimate Czech opera, Rusalka, is based on the legend of the waterspirit, Rusalka, who falls in love with a mortal. After at first deserting her, he eventually gives up his own life to join her in watery union. The Polonaise forms part of the opera wedding scene, with its ballet. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550376]

Hrad Karlštejn (Karlstein Castle)

Karlstein Castle was built in the 14th century under Charles IV as a stronghold to guard the sacred relics and royal insignia. The former include thorns from the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the sponge offered to Christ on the Cross, a tooth of St John the Baptist and the arm of St Anne. The castle was restored in the 19th century. The chapels of St Catherine and of the Cross, with the church of Our Lady, are of particular interest, with the Chapel of the Cross excelling in its pictorial decoration.

Music   Dvořák: Scherzo Capriccioso, Op. 66

Dvořák’s Scherzo Capriccioso was written in the spring of 1883. It is among his most successful works, composed at a time when his reputation had resulted in an invitation to London and an offer from Vienna for a German opera. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550376]

Trojský Zámek (Troja Palace)

Modelled on a classical Italian villa, Troja Palace, in Prague, was built as a summer palace by Count Sternberg in the late 17th century. In front of the buildings are figures of sons of Mother Earth. The palace boasts frescoes that stress the loyalty of the Sterbergs to the Habsburg Emperor. The gardens were planned in French style.

Music   Dvořák: Slavonic Rhapsody, Op. 45, No. 2

Dvořák’s three Slavonic Rhapsodies were dedicated in 1878 to a critic. The second of the set, in G minor, offers music of vital energy, relaxing into an easy-going waltz rather than developing the material. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550610]

Czech Countryside

The Bohemian countryside brings sights of woods and fields, with the River Vltava and its smaller tributaries lending their own variety and beauty to the landscape.

Music   Dvořák: Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 5

Dvořák wrote two sets of Slavonic Dances, the first set in 1878, intended for piano duet but at the same time scored for orchestra. The fifth of the set is in the form of a Bohemian Skočná, a hopping-dance, as always with original melodic material. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550143]

Konopiště • Hluboká • Litomyšl

The 13th century Konopiště Castle lies south-east of Prague and was changed from a fortress to a royal residence by Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The site of the 13th century royal fortress at Hluboká, overlooking the Vltava, is particularly impressive. Smetana was born in Litomyšl, which boasts its own fortress, transformed into a Renaissance Castle.

Music   Dvořák: Slavonic Dance, Op. 72, No .10

Dvořák wrote his second set of Slavonic Dances in the summer of 1886, orchestrating them during the winter. The second of the new set, Slavonic Dance No. 10 is a Mazurka. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550143]


Prague owed its original importance to its geographical position, at the very heart of Europe. The city grew in importance particularly in the 14th century under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Sights of interest include churches, palaces, bridges and the great castle. Another aspect of Prague is found in its beers, seen in the traditional brewery of Plzeň (Pilsen), with its brew-kettles. The various varieties of Czech beer are to be found in the beer-halls of the capital.

Music   Dvořák: Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 6

Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 6 belongs to the first set of dances. It is in the form of a Sousedská, in the mood of a Ländler, a slowish country waltz. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.550143]

Keith Anderson

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