Walks along Moldau river ended in the greatest symphonic poem of all time

Vltava river in Prague
Vltava river in Prague

Bedřich Smetana conceived a series of orchestral pieces based on the legends and landscapes of his homeland entitled Má Vlast (My Country), or what he himself called “musical pictures of Czech glories and defeats.”

Each movement of the suite is a self-standing symphonic poem with its own story. The Moldau was chronologically the second of the six works. It evokes the flow of the Vltava River—or, in German, the Moldau—from its source in the mountains of the Bohemian Forest, through the Czech countryside, to the city of Prague.

During its composition, Smetana was plagued by severe headaches caused by syphilis that would eventually lead him to complete deafness. The composer had found his walks along the shores of the Moldau to be a source of inspiration and thus decided to include a portrait of it in this series. He gave the poem a sort of rondo structure and divided it into eight continuous sections. 

Listen to the Moldau performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan:

The Moldau remains the most popular and one of the most widely performed symphonic poems ever written. 

Share this story
you may also like
  • The History of Popular Music

    Discover stories from each decade. Listen to gems from the 1960s, 1970s, and more.
  • Early Music

    Read all about the formative music of the past centuries. Enjoy the regal yet easy sounds of the Baroque and Renaissance.
  • Indian Classical Music

    Dive into the South Asian philosophy through Indian classical music. Learn about musical traditions of the Hindustani and Carnatic culture.
  • The Epoch of Romanticism

    Get a taste of the most beloved and fruitful music period. See the personalities behind the major shift of the eras — from Classical to Romantic.