Smetana: Má vlast

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Má vlast
PERFORMER: Czech PO/Libor Pešek
I don’t imagine that the Czechs feel much like celebrating the river Vltava after the inundations of this summer. However, this recording was made at the Prague Spring Festival of 1995, when the Vltava still kept modestly within its banks. Pešek’s performance is very fine and far transcends his very estimable rendition with the RLPO in 1989.


From the start of the cycle, ‘Vyšehrad’, with its evocation of the glories and vicissitudes of the Czech nation’s mythical past, the pacing is faultless and the climaxes handled with both passion and dignity. Important in ensuring this level of excellence is the playing of the Czech Philharmonic on superb form: expressive and unanimous strings and magnificently sonorous wind and brass. But so much of what is remarkable about this recording derives from the unaffected sincerity of Pešek’s approach – there is no false sentiment in his vision of Bohemia’s landscape nor any unnecessary histrionics in the militaristic parts of ‘Blaník’. This is a performance to keep and treasure, even if it does not quite replace the inspiration of Kubelík’s Prague Spring version of 1990. Jan Smaczny