Friday, June 14, 2024

FRIDAY MUSIC: Bartók and Smetana, by JD

Music from Eastern Europe by Bartok and Smetana; orchestral interpretations of their country's folk music traditions:

Béla Bartók ( 25 March 1881 – 26 September 1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist and ethnomusicologist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century; he and Franz Liszt are regarded as Hungary's greatest composers. Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of comparative musicology, which later became known as ethnomusicology. 

Bartok's own compositions are not atonal but they are not exactly melodic and are not easy to listen to. They are part of the twentieth century fad of appealing to the intellect instead of the emotions; for the head instead of the heart. Far more interesting are his collecting of 'ethnic' folk music and transcibing these for orchestra and a selection of these follow -

In an article on the influence of peasant music on modern music, Béla Bartók once declared: ‘The right type of peasant music is most varied and perfect in its forms. Its expressive power is astonishing, and at the same time it is devoid of all sentimentality and superfluous ornaments... A composer in search of new ways cannot be led by a better master.’

For Bartók, the ‘right type’ of music was not the sophisticated urban style of the gypsies, which Brahms and Liszt had mistaken for genuine Hungarian folk music, but the less refined traditional melodies that had been passed down through the generations in rural communities.

Muzsikás: Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances / with Danubia Orchestra

Víkingur Ólafsson – Bartók: 3 Hungarian Folksongs from the Csìk, Sz. 35a

Bedřich Smetana ( 2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style that became closely identified with his people's aspirations to a cultural and political "revival". He has been regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music.

Smetana (1824–1884) created a new musical identity for the Czechs, inspired by popular legends, history and countryside. Now Smetana is recognised as the vital force in establishing Bohemian music around the globe - and not even his successor Dvorak made his homeland such an indelible part of his musical style.

Vltava contains Smetana's most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the melody La Mantovana, attributed to the Italian Renaissance tenor Giuseppe Cenci,[9] which, in a borrowed Romanian form, was also the basis for the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah. The tune also appears in an old Czech folk song, Kočka leze dírou ("The Cat Crawls Through the Hole"); Hanns Eisler used it for his "Song of the Moldau [de]"; and Stan Getz performed it as "Dear Old Stockholm" (possibly through another derivative of the original tune, "Ack Värmeland du sköna"). Horst Jankowski played a syncopated version of the tune on his easy listening hit, "A Walk in the Black Forest." 

Smetana: Vltava (The Moldau) - Stunning Performance

0:00 The warm spring (flutes): the source of the Vltava.

0:29 The cold spring (clarinets): the two brooks meet and form the Vltava.

1:11 Vltava: the main theme.

3:15 Hunters' horns: the river passes through a forest hunt.

4:10 Polka: a village wedding dance by the river.

5:49 Rusalka: beautiful water nymphs in old Czech legends, bathing in the river by the moonlight amid the ruins of ancient castles. Muted strings, flutes, harps and horns. Calm yet mysterious.

9:04 Return to the main theme

10:03 Our river enters the raging St. John Rapids. Stormy and turbulent.

11:19 Main theme recap. Having cleared the rapids, now in a bright and cheerful major key.

11:45 Vyšehrad theme: the Vltava salutes the great castle, seat of the Czech nation. Cymbals. Goosebumps.

12:41 The music slowly fades away as our river says farewell and flows on into the distance, as it always has since time immemorial.

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