Forging a national identity : ideological undercurrents in Smetana's Vltava



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Smetana’s Vltava is widely described as a musical depiction of sights and scenes on a journey down the Vltava River that glorifies the river as a defining national landmark. While this understanding of the piece complies with its program and produces a formal and thematic analysis that reveals a general adherence to the conventions of the nineteenth-century symphonic poem, the interpretation only considers the work in isolation and does not account for its most exceptional features. My paper will analyze Vltava in its larger context as a part of the symphonic cycle of Má Vlast to uncover a deeper programmatic significance to the movement’s formal and thematic design, one inextricably bound up with Smetana’s Czech nationalism. The analysis will consider all of the movements of the cycle and their relationships to one another, with particular emphasis on the crucial relationship between Vltava and Z českých luhů a hájů.