Results of the Radio Prague Competition
358 Radio Prague listeners took part in the competition. The task was simple - to write a short text answering the question
It was very difficult to decide but the winner has finally been chosen - it
is . You can read his letter as well as
the runners-up on this page.
The prize for the winner is a week-long trip for two in the Czech Republic.
The trip is sponsored by hotel Adria Praha - your home in the heart of the golden city, and the flights are sponsored by Czech Airlines - At Home In The Skies.The runners-up will receive Radio Prague souvenirs.
You can find the details about the rules of the competition here.
Helmut Matt, Germany
What piece of Czech music has made the greatest impression on me?
What musical piece of work of a Czech artist impressed me? I really can't answer this question without compiling an entire list of works: there would be Antonin Dvorak's symphonies, his Slavonic Dances, or his beautiful Cello Concerto. Janacek's Jenufa or his fascinating Glagolitic Mass also belong to the highlights of Czech music. But I do not want to bore readers with a tiring litany. I should take a closer look at this question. So, what work of a Czech composer has impressed me the most? This question cannot be answered without long reflection. But, since I have to make a decision, it will be Smetana's Vltava from the My Homeland cycle. But let me note that the works of the great Antonin Dvorak are equally deserving, and I have to apologise to Dvorak for not choosing his Symphony No. 9, another favourite of mine, or the wonderfully melodic Cello Concerto or the fiery Slavonic Dances.
Many of you who are reading these lines must be wondering whether I'm serious: how can one raise such a relatively "minor" and "simple" piece of music to the level of the Czech "musical-Olympus" and at the same time simply ignore more sophisticated works by Smetana and other composers? A good question to ask and it's probably true. However, the decision has been made and I will stand by it: Smetana's Vltava was the first piece by a Czech composer I ever heard. I remember the experience to this day, when - at a very young age - I heard the magical melody spellbound and quite beside myself. Although I probably did not understand the whole dimension of the work at the time I was moved and full of respect for the deep impression its musical beauty leaves. Only Mozart's Magic Flute, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, and Wagner's Parsifal had a similar effect on me, the latter not until many years later. I think it's no coincidence that there are only few pieces of music around the world that have made it to such a high degree of fame and to such popularity as this brilliant work by Smetana.
Today, three decades after this unusual encounter, I still love this extremely melodic, warm and folk-inspired piece. There are surely only a few people who are not familiar with Vltava. Nevertheless, I should say a few more words about it: it describes in fine, sensitive, softly intertwining musical pictures the course of the Vltava, the great river of Bohemia - the composer's homeland. From the softly trickling source, the river takes its course, accompanied by strings and woodwind players, feeling the movements of the roaring waves. The Vltava theme swells up with might until rejoicing violins and woodwind accompany the great river through the marvellous Bohemian land. On its way to the beautiful city of Prague, the Vltava passes many scenes and witnesses events that mirror themselves in wonderful pastoral melodies. One hears sounds of hunting horns or a cheerful farm wedding. Especially enchanting is the musical description of a clear night as background for the sounds of diving nymphs. After a partially dramatic course over wild rapids, the river finally reaches its destination - the city of Prague. In its unique way, the Vltava tune bursts into song in a bright major tone as it reaches the "Golden City" and the Castle, which the Vltava passes as a peaceful, wide, and proud river. The Visegrad theme that emerges is born from another of the tone-poems in the same cycle, emphasising the deep feeling of Czech national pride that characterises the piece.
Vltava is an expression of a musical movement that can also be labelled as "national music". It embodies the waking national consciousness of the Czech people after centuries of Habsburg rule. I am fascinated by the beauty of the melody and the way that the piece is rooted in Czech consciousness.Like the other compositions in the My Homeland cycle, Vltava portrays the pride and deep identity of the artist with his Bohemian homeland. It is especially evident from the radiating and festive arrival of the Vltava River in Prague.
n my view, Smetana's Vltava epitomises Bohemian music while it is also a musical example of the Czech musical genius. Now I hope it is clear why, despite initial hesitation and uncertainty, I chose this work and no other. It was the only choice I could have made.
Herzbolheim, April 4 2004
Alon Raab, Oregon, USA
Patrick Jeffers, Cheshire, England
Chris Nuttal, Hayton, England
Villiam Porochnuk, Alberta, Canada
Roy Kitson, Bangor, North Ireland
John Kolbert, Keele, England
Elaine Schumann, Colorado, USA
Robert Turizziani, West Virginia, USA
Jonathan Murphy, Mallow, Ireland
Louisa Krátká, Hamilton, Canada