An unmissable Smetana recording

Prague Philharmonia lead by Jakub Hrůša spellbind with much-loved Czech masterpiece, Smetana's Má Vlast (My Homeland)

Composer: Smetana
Repertoire: Má Vlast (My Homeland) 
Artists: Prague Philharmonia/Jakub Hrůša
Rating: 5/5 
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Supraphon SU 4032-2

The Music Bedřich Smetana’s Má Vlast is a cycle of six symphonic poems, each one proudly celebrating the history (real or legendary) and scenery of the composer’s native Czech Bohemia. Smetana wrote the music in the 1870s, almost all of it when he was completely deaf and plagued by tinnitus. 

The Performance Any Czech performance of their much-loved national masterpiece always has the musical waves rolling high. The trump card of this one, given at last year’s Prague Spring Festival, is its superlative but modest orchestral line-up, showing that you don’t need big symphonic forces for the music’s non-stop inspiration to make its mark. Jakub Hrůša’s bombast-free conducting secures playing of poised grace besides vividness and panache: the colourful panoply of Vltava (the River Moldau) unfolds with spellbinding loveliness. And the principal horn and oboe are players of mesmerising world class. 

The Verdict An unmissable release is let down by the CD booklet which, amazingly, has no synopsis of the scenes and events described in the music. (Try the internet: Wikipedia’s ‘Má Vlast’ entry is good.) 

Want more? Try Smetana’s poignant First String Quartet, subtitled From My Life, impressively played by the Talich Quartet and availble on Alto records (ALC 1079).