Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited
by Fred Flaxman

©2015 by Fred Flaxman

Program 245
"Czech This Out!"

MUSIC: Nedbal: excerpt from Valse triste performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Václav Neumann [Orfeo C 107 201 A, Track 8]  [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll “Czech This Out!” That’s spelled C-z-e-c-h, because we’ll be listening to Antonin Dvořák’s Czech Suite, Czech Dances by Bedřich Smetana, two Czech waltzes by Oskar Nedbal played, of course, by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Poem from the Idyll “At Twilight” by Zdeněk Fibich.

MUSIC: Fades out

Antonin Dvořák’s Czech Suite in D Major was written in 1879. It consists of five movements: The first is a pastorale called “Preludium.” The second is a polka. Then comes a minuetto; a romance; and finally a finále called “Furiant.”

In this three-CD Brilliant Classics recording devoted to Dvořák’s Symphonic Poems and Overtures, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Theodore Kuchar.

MUSIC: Dvořák: Czech Suite, Op. 39, performed by the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Theodore Kuchar [Brilliant Classics 92297, CD 1, Tracks 1- 5]  [21:49]

Antonin Dvořák’s Czech Suite. The Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Theodore Kuchar.

You are listening to “Czech This Out” on this hour of Compact Discoveries.  I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

In 1879 the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana wrote two series of Czech Dances for piano. Smetana drew on most of the themes for this work from a volume of Czech folk songs. But he also made use of dances which he learned from an old schoolmaster who lived not far from the Smetana family’s summer retreat. The retired school teacher remembered the dances from his youth. By the time Smetana heard these tunes, they had mostly fallen into oblivion. We’ll listen to four of these pieces now from Series Two as performed by pianist Jan Novotný.

MUSIC: Smetana: four pieces from Czech Dances, Series Two, performed by pianist Jan Novotný [Supraphon SU 3070-2- 111, Tracks 1, 2, 7, 8] [16:44]

Four pieces from Bedřich Smetana’s  Czech Dances, 2nd Series performed by pianist Jan Novotný.

You are listening to “Czech This Out” on this hour of Compact Discoveries.  I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

Let’s return to Czech orchestral music for the rest of this program, and two pieces by Oskar Nedbal. I didn’t tell you anything, really, about our first two composers, as I figured you probably already heard of Dvořák and Smetana. But you just as probably have never heard of Oskar Nedbal.

He was born in southern Bohemia in 1874. He studied violin at the Prague Conservatory and was a pupil of Dvořák. He was also a founding member of the Bohemian String Quartet from 1891 until 1906. From 1896 until 1906 he was also the principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a composer Nedbal wrote one unsuccessful opera, ten operettas, eight ballets, one film score, and various orchestral pieces, piano pieces, songs, and chamber works.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about him to a contemporary audience is how his life ended. On Christmas Eve of 1930 he jumped to his death from a window of the Zagreb Opera House, where he was supposed to conduct a performance of his ballet-pantomime known in English as The Tale of Simple Johnny.  According to one source I read, Nedbal had not been able to cope with the responsibilities that he had been given as Director of the Slovakian National Theater. Another source blamed his suicide on mounting personal debts.

I had never heard of Nedbal or any of his compositions before I began work on this “Czech This Out!” program. That was when I came across a 1984 CD from Orfeo Classics with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under its Czech conductor Václav Neumann. One of the pieces on this CD is this beautiful Valse triste, which is from The Tale of Simple Johnny.

MUSIC: Nedbal: Valse triste performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Václav Neumann [Orfeo C 107 201 A, Track 8]  [5:59]

Valse triste by Oskar Nedbal. One more short orchestral piece by Nedbal from the same Orfeo compact disc. This one a bit happier — a tuneful waltz called in English The Bells of the Forest.

MUSIC:
Nedbal: Die Glocken des Waldes / The Bells of the Forest performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Václav Neumann [Orfeo C 107 201 A, Track 6]  [4:09]

Oskar Nedbal’s The Bells of the Forest performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Václav Neumann.

I’ve been playing music by Czech composers that I think deserves to be heard more often. My final selection is a very well-known tune by a not-so-well-known Czech composer, Zdeněk Fibich. It is the Poem from the Idyll “At Twilight,” and it is performed on this recording by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted once again by Václav Neumann.

MUSIC:
  Zdeněk Fibich: Poem from the Idyll “At Twilight,” performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Václav Neumann [Supraphon SU 3163-2-011, Track 5]  [4:11]

Zdeněk Fibich: Poem from the Idyll “At Twilight,” performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Václav Neumann.  And that concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries which I called “Czech This Out!”  If you missed part of the program or would like to hear it again, you can stream it on demand at compactdiscoveries.com. This is program number 245. And this is your guide to Compact Discoveries, Fred Flaxman, Thank you for listening.

ANNOUNCER (Tana Flaxman): Production of Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida... and by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz…  Art and Eva Stevens... Shelley and Gilbert Harrison… the CD companies that supply the recordings used…  and ArkivMusic.com  the online store for classical music CDs, DVDs, downloads, and over 10,000 on-demand reissued titles. Broadcast of the programs by public radio stations is made possible by listeners who contribute to those stations. Streaming-on-demand is made possible by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Program Ends at 59:00