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A Symphonic Journey: The Czech Republic’s Unofficial Anthem

Czech Republic

“The Moldau,” by Bedrich Smetana, honors the Moldau River that runs through the Czech countryside. At its 1882 premiere, it struck a chord with the Czechs, who felt its flowing melody evoked the struggle of their small nation surrounded by mightier neighbors.

Complete Video Script

Next, we hear a piece from the Czech Republic. The 19th century was a time of national awakenings. All over Europe, from Finland to Bulgaria, little national groups were on the rise. The Czechs were one of these and they struggled heroically, surrounded by bigger neighbors — Austrian Habsburgs, Germans, and Russians.

Now, Romantic music championed both the causes of these people, and it did it with art and it did it with music. In the Romantic Age, for the Czech people, Smetana was a favorite.

This piece is named for the most important river in the Czech Republic. It flows and it connects the culture like a thread. And it also helped preserve the identity, the culture and the language of the Czech people amid those bigger neighbors.

The piece is like a landscape portrait, and when you listen to the music, you get caught up in the melody and you almost flow through the forests, through the villages, and finally into the capital city of Prague. And at the same time, the music evokes the persistent and the heroic struggle of the Czech people. To this day, Czechs get a lump in their throat when they hear Smetana's hauntingly beautiful melody, “The Moldau.”