The Vltava (Moldau) River flows through Chesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.

A (VERY) Little Bit About Music with Amy: The Moldau

Today, I’m reminiscing about my trip to Europe last year. For some reason, I haven’t worn the ring we bought until today.

Michael and I took a cruise down the Danube and had the opportunity to take several day trips inland. When we arrived in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, I was a total dork because I recognized the name of the river we were going to visit as the name of a piece of music – and I even knew the composer! Knowing me, you can imagine how much more goofy I became when I found a piece of jewelry featuring stones with the same name…
Moldavite Ring
Those two green stones in the center are Moldavite – Vltavin in Czech. The other deep red stones are Bohemian Garnet.

Since I’m a non-music scholar surrounded by music scholars, I do get very proud of myself whenever I remember an ounce of music history. So, in honor of my beautiful ring, here’s bit about The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana.

The Vltava River flows 270 miles from the Bohemian Forest through the Czech countryside to the city of Prague. The German name, Moldau, is the name of the second movement of Smetana’s six-movement Ma Vlast (My Homeland). In the music, I can hear the rippling of the waters as they bubble up from springs and eventually flow into the river. As it flows past various scenes (hunters, a wedding), the music joins in the activities, eventually passing over rapids and into Prague. Finally, the river slows back to a trickle and the journey comes to a close.

The Moldau debuted in 1875, and remains one of Smetana’s most recognizable works. The six symphonic poems of Ma Vlast were composed from 1874 – 1879. Listen to the complete piece here:

Take a 15 minute break from what you’re doing and have a listen to The Moldau:

As I was reading about the symphonic poem, I found it interesting that in the 1820s and 1830s, composers were beginning to question the future of the symphony. It seems that Beethoven dominated the conversation and much of the music being written was described as “aesthetically far inferior” to his. I love to think about the tabloids of the time… can you imagine reading a story about Felix Mendelssohn’s inferior symphony? (FYI, the ISO is performing Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, “Italian” next month. It premiered in 1833.)

During our time in Cesky Krumlov, Michael and I also heard from guides that the character of Dracula may have been inspired by the town. But that’s another story all together…

I’m going to keep learning about music a little at a time, so stay tuned!