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Listening Session
 Wednesday 2/23/05
4-6pm in MA452



Ma Vlast (My Fatherland)

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Rafael Kubelik, conductor

Recorded live on May 12, 1990
at the opening concert of the
Prague Spring Festival

Smetana Hall, Prague

This recording of a very particular live performance represents the crossing of a number of historical moments, such as a musician may only rarely be privileged to experience. While orchestras are frequently called upon to play for scripted ceremonious occasions, this performance had both unscriptable spontaneity as well as a deeply rooted Czech emotion and pride that welled up through the events of 1989/90 combined with the return of a long self-exiled patriot conductor, and the passion of this singularly national piece, Smetana’s “Ma Vlast” (My Fatherland) as it can be played – nay, “celebrated” - only by the Czech Philharmonic.

Events leap-frogged with breathtaking velocity in that year as the iron curtain fell. The shackles of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe were thrown off as the pent-up will of the people overthrew their oppressive regimes. A key role in this string of events was played in Prague. This fact was not lost on Rafael Kubelik, a composer/conductor, who in 1968 had exiled himself from his beloved Fatherland, Czechoslovakia, when Russian tanks rolled in to Prague to quell an uprising and establish Soviet rule. Kubelik did continue an immensely successful conducting career, based in Munich and guest conducting in all of Europe, all the while proudly yearning for his homeland and maintaining his principled stance against the communist regime there. He had since retired to Switzerland and was in very ill health, no longer able to conduct. Following closely the events of that year, his health rallied and, when the walls fell and the Czech people were able to regain their sovereignty, a musical reunion was planned which resulted in this truly inspired performance. 

I have had the pleasure of twice hearing this orchestra perform Ma Vlast live (although not this particular performance). The Czech Philharmonic possesses a distinctively luxurious orchestral culture, which draws upon both a very deeply rooted folksy musicality as well as the highest refinements of symphonic polish going back to Mozart’s experiences in Prague and much earlier yet. I encourage you to listen for the wonderfully natural, unforced playing, and to the unity and cohesiveness of phrasing, balance, and blend, as well as the heart-felt inflection of the musicians playing “their” music. 

Relax and enjoy listening!

Wednesday 2/23/05 in MA452, 4-6pm

Return to F419 Brass Orchestral Repertoire