Eastern_Europe   Czecho-Slovakia   Czech Republic

 

CZECHOSLOVAKIA'S MUSICAL GENIUS

By Victor Pozzani

 

No discussion of Eastern Europe's contributions to world culture would be complete without mentioning in particular Czechoslovakia's seemingly unsurpassable overall contribution to the world of classical music.
In the book entitled "Czechoslovak Music: The Voice of a People", Jan Lowenbach points out that for the first several centuries of its existence, "Czech music was composed entirely of church and folk music." During this time, folk and especially church songs were not only meant for the clergy or the upper classes, but rather for all the people. Every member of the Czech society could experience and share in their beauty, and they were "the concern of the entire community."

 

This philosophy of viewing music as a common gift to be shared by the entire Czech nation fostered a great level of national pride and dignity, and gave the Czech people something to claim as a solid national identity. It also served as a chief medium through which they could remain unified in mind, conscience, and spirit.Sadly, though, many of the great Czech musicians and composers that would follow had to take their talent elsewhere.  "Forced to leave the country for political, religious, economic, and national reasons before and after the thirty years war (1618-1648)",

 

 these Czech composers and musicians would go on to build the foundation "for a new development of the European classic period."Tragically, though, as a direct result of this mass exodus to Europe, many of these Czech musicians "paid for their contribution to European music culture with the loss of their nationality." Josef Myslivecek became as "Venatorini" a widely celebrated Italian opera composer ("Il divino Boemo");  George Benda became the founder of the German song-play and melodrama,

Josef Myslivecek

Jiri Benda

 

 Antonin Reicha grew to be the protagonist of the new French theory of harmony, and Jan Vaclav Stamic revolutionized the symphonic form in Mannheim. And these are but four names among scores of famous composers and instrumentalists of Czechoslovak origin, who, in foreign lands fructified the musical art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.Although it can be viewed as unjust, this "loss of nationality" did however in no way detract from Czechoslovakia's overall generally acknowledged and accepted level of musical excellence.

Antonin Reicha

Vaclav Stamitz

 

As Lowenbach states, "By the end of the eighteenth century it was known throughout Europe that the Czechs were already famous as a musical nation by gift and education."  And today, through the reclaiming of these musicians' true nationality and heritage by the current Czech generation, the plane of excellence upon which the Czech musician lies is elevated to an even higher degree.  The fame of the Czech music continued in nineteenth century with Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dorak.

Antonin Dvorak

Bedrich Smetana

 

 

WORK CITED: Lowenbach, Jan. Czechoslovak Music: The Voice of a People Czechoslovak Information Service, New York: 1943

 


 

 

 

 

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