Author Topic: Smetana's Dům  (Read 6108 times)

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Offline Lethevich

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Smetana's Dům
« on: July 20, 2009, 06:20:06 AM »
Surprised there isn't a serious thread on this fellow yet. I wanted to ask a question, but it wouldn't be a good way to start a thread without some kind of look at the music I do know:

His large symphonic poem cycle Má Vlast is as superb as its popularity implies, although like a few others, I find the two later-added pieces to be less inspired than the radiant first four. There are mercifully many great recordings of this work, so you could scarcely go wrong in buying one, but some of the most popular are Kubelik's last live recording on Supraphon, Wit's expansive take on Naxos, and Macal/Milwaukee SO(!) on Telarc.

His chamber works are sparse and gem-like in their quality. The two string quartets and the piano trio are essential works in their respective genres. The operas, much like Dvořák's, are quite neglected. I find myself preferring Smetana's to Dvořák due to a less routine method of composition which I have yet to fully understand. There is a great sweep to the music, sometimes in an almost oratoriac* manner, but also infused with dances and a lot of carefree moods. It is perhaps a little unfair that the only of his operas to have recieved any attention, The Bartered Bride, is the second of eight - and he shows no sign of having declined in compositional power towards the end of his life. The opposite is attested to in his chamber music.

*Made up words can be so useful!

Anyway, my question: what are your opinions on the various multiple-disc cycles of his orchestral works? The choices seem to be between Noseda/BBC Phil/Chandos (2 volumes, in progress), Válek/Prague RSO/Supraphon (3 discs), Kuchar/Janáček PO/Brilliant (3 discs). Did I miss any?
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Offline Brian

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2009, 06:39:18 AM »
Anyway, my question: what are your opinions on the various multiple-disc cycles of his orchestral works? The choices seem to be between Noseda/BBC Phil/Chandos (2 volumes, in progress), Válek/Prague RSO/Supraphon (3 discs), Kuchar/Janáček PO/Brilliant (3 discs). Did I miss any?
I've got the Kuchar and the performances are vigorous, energetic and entertaining; Ma Vlast not the best, but then that's not why you get a complete set. (And the Bartered Bride excerpts ARE just about the best.)

There are a lot of "Festive" and "Comic" overtures which are really quite delightful; obviously the overture to The Bartered Bride was not an anomaly.

If you don't mind my adding a question, does anyone know anything about his piano music?

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2009, 07:53:12 AM »
About his piano music, IMHO Smetana can be named the Czech Liszt. His short pieces are simply delightful, with all the charm and humor
of the best Czech music, and technically very difficult. The recording
of some of them by the great Rudolf Firkusny is already legendary. :D

Offline rubio

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2009, 11:11:32 AM »
About his piano music, IMHO Smetana can be named the Czech Liszt. His short pieces are simply delightful, with all the charm and humor
of the best Czech music, and technically very difficult. The recording
of some of them by the great Rudolf Firkusny is already legendary. :D

Do you refer to the Firkusny recording on Vox or EMI (Capitol)?
“One good thing about music, when it hits- you feel no pain” Bob Marley

DFO

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2009, 11:24:28 AM »
The Capitol one. Less sure technically but maybe more poetic is Jan Novotny. He recorded 16 short pieces on a double Supraphon.

Offline Fafner

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2013, 06:29:27 AM »
My goodness! Only four posts in Smetana's thread? What a travesty!  :o

Anyway, I listened to the overture to The Bartered Bride as played by Chicago SO under Fritz Reiner (1955) and there was something very weird about it. I cannot put a finger on what it was exactly, but there were details that made it sound distinctly non-Czech. I suppose being so familiar with the tune since childhood and always hearing it from Czech orchestras, it kind of brings such a reaction.

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2013, 06:38:55 AM »
My goodness! Only four posts in Smetana's thread? What a travesty!  :o

Anyway, I listened to the overture to The Bartered Bride as played by Chicago SO under Fritz Reiner (1955) and there was something very weird about it. I cannot put a finger on what it was exactly, but there were details that made it sound distinctly non-Czech. I suppose being so familiar with the tune since childhood and always hearing it from Czech orchestras, it kind of brings such a reaction.

The reason we need new members constantly is to prevent travesties like this. And you came just in time!

I have to confess that I have not heard any of Smetana's operas. I love the chamber music and the piano music probably more than the orchestrals ones, possibly because Ma Vlast suffered from over-exposure, in my case.
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Offline Fafner

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2013, 07:07:42 AM »

I have to confess that I have not heard any of Smetana's operas.

Yes, Smetana was mainly a composer of operas in his time, but nowadays they are rarely played. With the exception of The Bartered Bride, which is a staple of the Czech operatic repertoire. Libuše is really a nationalistic artefact without much dramatic potential beyond the final "clairvoyance" scene. I would mostly recommend Dalibor and Two widows , the others are performed quite rarely.

The Bartered Bride overture is often played as an orchestral piece, because it is just lovely. There is an anecdote about Gustav Mahler who during his tenure with the MET decided to place the overture AFTER the first act so that even the New York snobs who always come late to the opera could hear it.  ;D
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Offline Fafner

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2013, 07:38:41 AM »
By the way, just listening to Dvořák's Hussite Overture and it is a really interesting comparison to Smetana's Tábor (from Má Vlast). They are both based on the same theme (15th century war song "Ye Who Are Warriors of God"). Dvořák goes much further in terms of development of the theme. Smetana just basically quotes it verbatim throughout the entire piece.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 07:44:00 AM by Fafner »
"Remember Fafner? Remember he built Valhalla? A giant? Well, he's a dragon now. Don't ask me why. Anyway, he's dead."
   --- Anna Russell

Offline Superhorn

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2013, 08:11:05 AM »
   It's a little known fact that Smetana wrote one symphony ,known as the "festive symphony ", and I have the excellent Supraphon recording with Karel Sejna and the Czech Philharmonic , coupled with  other works by this ocmposer and Dvorak .
It's an attractive and melodious work, but unfortunately, the main theme of the slow movement  is the the melody  later called   "Deutschland uber alles ",  used of course, long before the Nazis appropriated it .
Haydn uses this melody, apparently a Croatian folk song, in one of his string quartets .

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2013, 09:40:42 AM »
Only one page for this guy!? ??? Just wanted to resurrect this thread to point out what an awesome orchestration Szell made of Smetana's SQ no. 1:



I'm a real sucker for orchestrations of piano and chamber works, especially this one. Szell captures the passion and intensity of the original chamber version while adding a natural-sounding extra dimension. The performances of Dvorak 7-9 are unmissable as well! :)

jlaurson

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2016, 11:45:28 PM »

latest on Forbes:

Classical CD Of The Week: Czech Please

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenslaurson/2016/09/07/classical-cd-of-the-week-czech-please/


Bedřich Smetana , String Quartets, Talich String Quartet (La Dolce Volta)

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2016, 03:51:26 AM »
By the way, just listening to Dvořák's Hussite Overture and it is a really interesting comparison to Smetana's Tábor (from Má Vlast). They are both based on the same theme (15th century war song "Ye Who Are Warriors of God"). Dvořák goes much further in terms of development of the theme. Smetana just basically quotes it verbatim throughout the entire piece.

Most interesting, thanks.
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SymphonicAddict

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2018, 04:11:57 PM »
It seems that this great composer doesn't receive much attention in here  :(

I was listening to a potent recording of his other tone poems apart from My Country (Richard III, Wallenstein's Camp and Hakon Jarl). Astounding music, sometimes riotous but always gripping and powerful, partly influenced by Liszt, being more evident on Richard III.


Offline schnittkease

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2018, 06:41:23 PM »
It seems that this great composer doesn't receive much attention in here  :(

Or maybe his greatness is so assured that us GMGers have no inclination to state the obvious?

I'll be giving this a listen:



(not breaking any new ground, clearly...)

SymphonicAddict

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2018, 09:20:54 PM »
Or maybe his greatness is so assured that us GMGers have no inclination to state the obvious?

I'll be giving this a listen:



(not breaking any new ground, clearly...)

Point taken  ;)

Those quartets are quite deep. The tinnitus fragment in the SQ 1-4th movement gives me shivers. A work written from the soul.

Offline Rinaldo

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2021, 07:12:33 AM »
Quite surprising to see such a modest thread for one of the greats! Well, let's give it a try:

This year's Prague Spring festival opened – as usual – with Smetana's Má vlast (My Fatherland), but there was a twist. The orchestra was Collegium 1704, the performance HIP to the bone, catgut and all. So if you yearned to hear a historically informed Vltava (Moldau) & co., you can do so via the Czech radio – just click the white-on-blue play button and skip to 7:30, where the performance starts.

I've enjoyed it immensely and the overall clarity and instrument separation opened my ears to some less familiar parts of the work. Sweet!*

* trivia you didn't ask for: "smetana" means "cream" in Czech

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2021, 08:07:30 AM »
Surprised there isn't a serious thread on this fellow yet. I wanted to ask a question, but it wouldn't be a good way to start a thread without some kind of look at the music I do know:

His large symphonic poem cycle Má Vlast is as superb as its popularity implies, although like a few others, I find the two later-added pieces to be less inspired than the radiant first four. There are mercifully many great recordings of this work, so you could scarcely go wrong in buying one, but some of the most popular are Kubelik's last live recording on Supraphon, Wit's expansive take on Naxos, and Macal/Milwaukee SO(!) on Telarc.

His chamber works are sparse and gem-like in their quality. The two string quartets and the piano trio are essential works in their respective genres. The operas, much like Dvořák's, are quite neglected. I find myself preferring Smetana's to Dvořák due to a less routine method of composition which I have yet to fully understand. There is a great sweep to the music, sometimes in an almost oratoriac* manner, but also infused with dances and a lot of carefree moods. It is perhaps a little unfair that the only of his operas to have recieved any attention, The Bartered Bride, is the second of eight - and he shows no sign of having declined in compositional power towards the end of his life. The opposite is attested to in his chamber music.

*Made up words can be so useful!

Anyway, my question: what are your opinions on the various multiple-disc cycles of his orchestral works? The choices seem to be between Noseda/BBC Phil/Chandos (2 volumes, in progress), Válek/Prague RSO/Supraphon (3 discs), Kuchar/Janáček PO/Brilliant (3 discs). Did I miss any?

I think you've made an excellent summary of Smetana's output - I would add the piano works and the unaccompanied chorus music as having real power and interest too.  I have enjoyed Jitka Chechova's multi disc survey on Supraphon for the former and various odds and ends on the same label for the latter.

As far as the orchestral collections are concerned - the Khuchar seems good at plugging the gaps of the "minor" works.  Valek I have been generally underwhelmed by in just about anything he has done and Noseda's I don't know.  Of course there are many very fine Ma Vlasts but the 3 you mention are all excellent but I'd add Ancerl (of course) and Berglund in Dresden and Levine in Vienna for a couple of more "left field" recommendations....

Offline kyjo

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2021, 06:43:53 AM »
I was recently listening to Smetana's Piano Trio in G minor in this astounding recording:



I've always liked this piece, but upon listening to this recording it absolutely blew me away. It's now firmly one of my very favorite piano trios - a masterwork of great emotional depth and melodic distinction. Smetana wrote it after the death of his daughter and one can sense his pain in the music. The sheer soulfulness of the melodies and the imaginative ways in which Smetana utilizes them is just so touching. The transformation of of the wistful secondary theme in an ecstatic blaze of joy near the end of the movement is an absolutely incredible moment! Not to mention the work sounds quite ahead of its time for 1854-55! I consider it a shame that Smetana didn't write more chamber music, but we must be thankful we have this trio in addition to his two wonderful string quartets.
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Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Smetana's Dům
« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2021, 09:04:47 AM »
I was recently listening to Smetana's Piano Trio in G minor in this astounding recording:



I've always liked this piece, but upon listening to this recording it absolutely blew me away. It's now firmly one of my very favorite piano trios - a masterwork of great emotional depth and melodic distinction. Smetana wrote it after the death of his daughter and one can sense his pain in the music. The sheer soulfulness of the melodies and the imaginative ways in which Smetana utilizes them is just so touching. The transformation of of the wistful secondary theme in an ecstatic blaze of joy near the end of the movement is an absolutely incredible moment! Not to mention the work sounds quite ahead of its time for 1854-55! I consider it a shame that Smetana didn't write more chamber music, but we must be thankful we have this trio in addition to his two wonderful string quartets.

Seek out ANY recordings by this trio (the pianist and cellist are ever-presents but they do swap arounf filddlers!).  Their recordings  - whoever is playing - are excellent.  Not sure but I think the performance of the Smetana Trio is the same as on this disc - just recoupled...?



posssibly more interesting couplings...... (the Dvorak is great but perhaps a tad obvious?).  Actually looking at those cover pics - it looks like a different violinist and the other 2 look a bit younger as well

EDIT:  just checked - they are different; one recorded in 2000 the other in 2004
« Last Edit: May 26, 2021, 09:11:55 AM by Roasted Swan »