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Czech out those Bohemians

Composers from the lands around the present-day Czech Republic have made an indelible mark on music – we'll examine their history and influence, from medieval times to the present.

 
Program 1

Ninth century bells ring in the oldest medieval market square in Europe, Prague, whilst the calm Vltava streams throughout the picturesque former capital of Bohemia--also an inspiration behind Smetana's ode to his homeland.  

Several traditional hymns introduce us to Old Bohemia, including ancient manuscripts in Slavic style, a Christmas song for King Wenceslas (surprisingly not the one we are accustomed to) and a 14th century Czech dance.  Sprinkled between pieces are histories of the land during the early teen centuries.

Bells Of The Church Of Sts. Peter And Paul In Vyšehrad (excerpt)
Supraphon 0192-2 231
1:14
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Smetana: Vltava fr. Má Vlast (excerpt)
Cleveland Orchestra/Szell
CBS 36716
1:09
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attr. Saint Vojtech (St. Adalbert): “Hospodine, Pomiluj Ny”
The Rose Ensemble
Rose 00003
:52
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Anon., from Codex Speciálník: “Nobis Est Natus Hodie”
Early Music New York
Ex Cathedra 14-10346-0
2:50
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Anon., from Codex Speciálník: “In Natali Domini”
The Rose Ensemble
Rose 00003
2:41
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Anon., from Codex Speciálník: “Ave Pura Tu Puella”
The Hilliard Ensemble
ECM 1504
3:19
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Anon., from Codex Speciálník: “Náš Mily Svaty Václave”
Early Music New York
Ex Cathedra 14-10346-0
5:09
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Anon., late 14th century: Czaldy Waldy
Early Music New York
Ex Cathedra 14-10346-0
3:00
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Huss: “Ktož jsú boží bojovníci (Those Who Are God’s Warriors)” (excerpt)
1:15

Huss: Communion Hymn
Los Angeles Trombone Ensemble
Crystal 220
2:37
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Anon.: Through Mountains And Valleys
Slavic Projection Folk Ensemble
SP 705
2:29
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Isaac: La Morra
Concentus Musicus Wien/Harnoncourt
Archiv Production (DG) 474233
1:21
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Michna: The Czech Music for the Virgin Mary (excerpts)
Musica Bohemica & Prague Chamber Chorus/Krček; Mihalikova, sop., Brezina, ten.
Supraphon 3657
13:29
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Biber: Battalia for Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo in D major (excerpts)
Le Concert Des Nations/Savall
Alia Vox 9825
7:33
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Program 2

WIth the Austrians in charge of the lands, many Czechs could not deal with the changes in culture that followed suit, and therefore migrated to other parts of Europe.  In this program, Bohemians in exile in the 17th and 18th century are explored.  Amonst them was Heinrich Biber, as he spent most of his life in Austria.  The program starts with his Venetian-like pieces for a requiem mass.  Also a great violinst, Biber composed Sonata Representativa in A Major for the violin to represent a plethora of animals. 

Zelenka, who was born near Prague, held a court musician position in Dresden.  He wrote a capriccio while in Vienna, of which we hear the Andante and Paysan after songs from a requiem. 

The Benda family also lived in exile, and as Protestants, they moved for religious reasons to Potsdam.  Present-day family members continue the family's legend: Arianna Benda performs the patriarch Jan Jiri's Concerto in G for Violin and Strings; famed cellist Christian Benda plays Frantisek's Sonata in A; and Jiri Antonin's Concerto in B minor is played by Sebastian Benda. 

Biber: Marcia Funebre & Kyrie Eleison fr. Requiem À 15
Le Concert Des Nations & La Capella Reial De Catalunya/Savall
Alia Vox 9825
4:25
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Biber: Sonata Representativa in A Major
Musica Antiqua Köln/Goebel
Ark 423 701 2
8:27
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Zelenka: Sanctus, Benedictus & Agnus Dei fr. Requiem, ZWV 48
Ensemble Baroque 1994 & Czech Chamber Choir/Roman Valek
Supraphon SU 0052-2-231
7:46
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Zelenka: Andante & Paysan fr. Capriccio ZWV 185
Virtuosi Saxoniae/Güttler
Berlin Classics 1149
3:53
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Jan Jiři Benda: Concerto in G for Violin and Strings, II & III
The Benda Musicians; A. F. Benda, v.
6:36

František Benda: Sonata in A for Cello and Harpsichord, II & III
The Benda Musicians; C. Benda, vc.
Pantheon 7167
5:22

Jiri Antonín Benda: Concerto in B minor for Piano and Strings, I
The Benda Musicians; S. Benda, p.
Pantheon 7167
7:14

František Benda: Sonata For Flute And Harpsichord, Vivace + Adagio (excerpt)
Rampal, fl.; Veyron-Lacroix, hps.
Priceless 24789
2:44 + 1:14
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Program 3

A revolving plate of snippets from the great Czech masters ensue.  Prague-born Frantisek Tuma, who resided in Vienna, opens with some high German Baroque music, followed by one of Gluck's arias. 

The greats always seem to eventually connect and work off each other.  Mysliveček, who studied opera in Italy, was a friend of Mozart's, and Vanhal played in a quartet with Mozart and Haydn, who also influenced his work.  Mozart showcases his love for Prague in arguably his most extravagant symphony, #38 in D.  Both born in 1770, Reicha and Beethoven became friends at 15, and Reich put his own spin on Mozart's tune. 

The program takes a break from Viennese-sounding music and goes back to its roots with some authentically Czech music: Ryba's Christmas Mass and a polka from Smetana, amongst others. 

Tuma: Partita in D minor for Orchestra, IV
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Kubelik
Supraphon 3381-2 001
2:39
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Tuma: Sonata A 3 In A Minor, I
Concerto Italiano/Alessandrini, v.
Naïve 30456
1:57
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Gluck: “Che Farò Senza Euridice?” fr. Orfeo ed Euridice
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Norrington; Scholl, ct.
L’oiseau Lyre 466196
3:45
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Mysliveček: Sinfonia In F, II
Prague Chamber Orchestra/Vlček
Supraphon 11 0304-2 011
4:08
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Mysliveček: “Che non mi disse un dil” fr. L’Olympiade
Prague Philharmonia/Swierczewski; Kozená, ms.
DG 471334-2
3:12
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Vanhal: Symphony in g minor, finale (excerpt)
Prague Chamber Orchestra/Vlček
Supraphon 11 0756
1:16
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Mozart: Symphony #38 In D, K 504, Prague, I (excerpt)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Levine
DG 423 086
3:08
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Franz Krommer: Octet in B-flat, Op. 78, IV
Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble
EMI 543832
3:51
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Reicha: Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum fr. Requiem Mass
Dvorak Chamber Orchestra/Mátl
Supraphon 11 0332-2231
3:15
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Reicha: 18 Variations on a Theme of Mozart (excerpts)
Rampal, fl.; Stern, v.; Rostropovich, vc.
Sony 44568
1:45, :51
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Voříšek: Symphony In D Major, I
Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Freeman
Cedille 58
7:45
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Ryba: Sanctus & Finale fr. Czech Christmas Mass
Czech Madrigalists Orchestra & Choir/Thuri
Naxos 8.554428
4:47
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Smetana: Polka No. 4
Firkusny, p.
EMI 66069
2:45
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Smetana: Skočná fr. The Bartered Bride (excerpt)
Czech Philharmonic/Neumann
Orfeo 180891
2:19
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Smetana: Vyšehrad fr. Má Vlast (excerpt)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Kubelik
Supraphon 1910-2 031
1:51
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Program 4

The best-known Czech repertoire comes from the mid-19th century.  Smetana's hauntingly beautiful ode to his homeland's longest running river, which is also a favorite tune of Prague's street musicians, evokes stirring images of Czech's lively countryside.  Dvořák entertains with furiant rhythms in Slavonic Dances, followed by a more thoughtful piano trio from Dumky and a piece from his student and son-in-law, Josel Suk.  Janaček reverts to the oldest Slavic language from St. Cyril and Methodius with his Glagolitic Mass, and Fibich, one of the most important composers after Dvořák, concludes with his famous "Poem."

Smetana: Vltava fr. Má Vlast
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Kubelik
Supraphon 1910-2 031
11:39
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Smetana: String Quartet No. 1 in e minor, From My Life, I
Panocha Quartet
Supraphon 3391-2 131
7:11
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Dvořák: Slavonic Dances, Op. 46- #8 In g minor
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kubelik
DG 469 760-2
4:04
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Dvořák: Piano Trio #4 in e minor, Op. 90, Dumky (excerpt)
Perlman, v.; Ma, vc.; Firkusny, p.
Sony 46687
3:52
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Suk: Meditation on an Old Czech Hymn
Virtuosi di Praga/Vlcek
Discover 920234
6:00
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Janáček: Suite for Wind Sextet, Mladi- I
Aulos Bläserquintett
Koch 310 051
3:42
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Janaček: Glagolitic Mass, I-III
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus/Mackerras; soloists
Supraphon 103575-2
12:44
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Fibich: Poem
Kölner Rundfunkorchester
2:07

 

Program 5

The 20th century contributers reinvent the face of Czech music in this last segment on the heart of Europe. Beginning with a patriotic salute by Kurka, Martinů delivers a tragic memorial to Lidice, accompanied by Bill's recap of horrific history from World War II.  Music from the prison camp, Terazin is uncovered, including Ullman, who "left the deepest mark" on music there, and Gideon Klein, a Prague-born pianist.  Despite Schulhoff's tragic ending in a camp in Bavaria, his ragtime and jazzy music still delights today. 

Bill wraps up details of Czech's tumultuous history, leading into the National Anthem and ending with a hopeful polka from Foerster.  Czech children were indeed not born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but with a violin under their pillows---and a musical dream.

Kurka: The Good Soldier Schweik (excerpt)
Chicago Opera Theater/Platt
Cedille 62
1:12
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Weinberger: Schwanda the Bagpiper- Polka and Fugue
New York Philharmonic/Stokowski
Cala 0537
7:31
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Martinů: Divertimento, I & II
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Vostrak; Jilek, p.
Supraphon 3643
4:58
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Martinů: Memorial to Lidice 8:43
Supraphon 3694
8:41, :54
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Ullman: Don Quixote (excerpt)
Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne/Conlon
Capriccio 67017
4:04
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Klein: Duo for Violin and Cello- Lento
Hawthorne String Quartet and Guest Artists
Channel Classics 6994
2:36
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Schulhoff: Ragtime, Step (Without Music) & Jazz fr. Suite For Chamber Orchestra
Ebony Band Amsterdam/Herbers
Channel Classics 6994
4:37
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Husa: Music For Prague 1968, IV
Temple University Wind Symphony/Chodoroff
Albany Troy 271
7:40
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Huss: “Ktož jsú boží bojovníci (Those Who Are God’s Warriors)” (excerpt)
:30

Czech National Anthem (excerpt)
2:14

Foerster: Polka fr. Deborah
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Smetacek
Supraphon 10-1429-2
1:24
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The Exploring Music streaming website is made possible by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and Susan & Richard Kiphart.
You have opened up the world of Classical Music to me, where previously, it seemed too complicated.
Steffen Demeter
This is simply one of the very best radio programmes in the medium!...The study of the people, the times, and the events that inform the music we otherwise enjoy and even, heaven forbid, take for granted, brings the entire world of the music and the composer to life.
Walther Davies
There isn't a program you broadcast on Exploring Music" that isn't of interest. I find them all engaging. It is a combination of variety of subject, intellectual curiosity and your obvious enthusiasm which characterize your satisfying programs.
Michael Sanders
It’s a great way to re-engage myself with consciousness before heading off to work.
Kourtney
I Love this program! I am in 7th grade and I am the complete opposite of the other kids. I am 4th chair in the orchestra and I love to read. But most of all, I LOVE classical music!
Claudia Wertz
Your show has helped open my mind and heart to this world of music, and every show I hear confirms my place in music and gives me new ideas for where I'd like to go with it in the future….I grew up with classical music as a child and always held it in my heart, but I didn't have the confidence to be a good student (or a good violinist.)
Christine Anderson
Listening to you is almost interactive.You invite us in with so many well modulated dramatic and informative comments, enticing, enthusiastic interpretations, and coherent, beautiful presentations. It's a privilege to follow you into the musical space you create.
Sally Rosenbaum
I just love this program. It is soothing and comfortable at the end of the day. I find his comments interesting, but they aren't so dragged out that there is very little music. The balance of both is just right.
Jean Quay
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