Smetana – “From Bohemia’s Fields and Groves” No. 4 from Má Vlast (My Fatherland)

by Max Derrickson

Bedřich Smetana     (Born March 2, 1824 in Litomyšl, near Prague; died May 12, 1884 in Prague)

“From Bohemia’s Fields and Groves” No. 4 from Má Vlast (My Fatherland)

Smetana’s Má Vlast (“My Fatherland”) of 1875 was a revolutionary change to the symphonic poem idea made prominent by Liszt, one of Smetana’s musical heroes.  Smetana morphed Liszt’s idea – a genre where the entire work is linked by essentially one theme – expanding it into a whole network of movements linked by a set of themes, large and small, playing larger and lesser roles to unify the whole.  In other words, multiple symphonic poems within a symphonic poem.  This Symphonic Suite, as Smetana called it, is a gathering of six musical vignettes of all things Czech, both geographically/iconically and folk-music centered.  The movements were written to be played either separately, in groupings, or altogether in one concert.

Smetana provided general notes for each movement.  For the fourth movement, From Bohemia’s Fields and Groves, he wrote:

“[It is] a painting of the feelings that fill one when gazing at the Bohemian landscape. On all sides singing, both gay and melancholic, resounds from fields and woods: the forest regions, depicted on the
[. . .] individual parts of the work.

What Smetana does not prepare the listener for, however, is its emotionally charged opening.  A feeling of epic grandeur is immediately conjured up by the full orchestra,
[. . .]
nightfall, quickening with sounds of life, both of Nature and Human-made, from all corners.  And at last that magnificently stirring ending, which
[. . .]