I don’t care who the fuck you are, or where the fuck you’re from; you could be a country bumpkin flossing with wheat and shitting horseflies and moonshine, or someone so cosmopolitan that your home address is an airplane that’s currently in flight and you find yourself often asking if someone can break a hundred; it doesn’t matter what race, creed, sexual orientation, cult, sect, generation, gender, or anthro-fucking-poid you’re part of; if you peace out of life without having heard this, you’re missing out. When lists are generated of the greatest classical compositions ever made, this motherfucker is often neglected. Sure, you’ll Hungarian dance while riding Valkyries through four seasons under Debussy’s moonlight while snorting some 5th symphony and butt-chugging the 9th, but it’s rare if Má Vlast (“My Homeland”) is anywhere to be seen.
It’s about damn time we change this landscape.
Má Vlast is made up of six symphonic poems all about the Czech Republic. The first song Vyšehrad, “The High Castle”, is all about describing the Vyšehrad castle in Prague. How does someone describe a castle in sound? With romantic harps, giant horn shots, and clashing fucking cymbals, that’s fucking how. The second song Vltava, is the biggest hit of the bunch. Because it’s about a river, the piece makes you feel like you’re riding down this river. No joke. It’s how this shit was composed. While going down the river you pass some woods, a few meadows, and a wedding. The third song Šárka is about some lady tying herself to a tree so some brave man will come save her. Shit gets hella real when, after said hunky man saves her, she slits his goddamn throat with the help of a clan of women-not-to-fuck-with. Z českých luhů a hájů (ya, that’s a fat fucking mouthful) doesn’t so much tell a story but boasts on how great forests, woodlands, and this one village festival are. Tábor is all about these warriors called the Hussites. And Blaníkis is about a sleeping army that will awaken when the country is at its most royally fucked. These are all the stories behind Má Vlast. It’s cool to think of this shit while listening because it lines up. This doens’t line up like watching Wizard of Oz and listening to Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon: these motherfuckers are legit tonal poems. It works. There are points of this that take you back to childhood wonder. It gives you tingles and makes you smile. It’s some seriously powerful shit.
Rafael Kubelík, the outrageously fantastic conductor on this motherfucker, and Bedřich Smetana were both born in the Czech Republic but at very different times. Smetana wrote most of this shit when he was deaf. No joke. Dude was not doing well. Right after writing this, he went straight bonkers and experienced depression, insomnia, hallucination, loss of speech, and went down this long road of mental shit until he just finally collapsed. Kubelík, the conductor, left Czechoslovakia in ’48 cause the guy didn’t like how communism was fucking up his home. “I had lived through one form of bestial tyranny, Nazism,” he once said, “As a matter of principle I was not going to live through another.” Damn. Riddled with arthritis and retired from conducting, he returned after the fall of communism in 1990 to conduct this motherfucker. Now that’s some fucking heart. You would never have known there was one single thing wrong with the guy. He moved with the dramatic and idiosyncratic swiftness of his earlier self. He conducted the living shit out of this. It was written within struggle, and in its best recording, it was conducted within struggle. That’s resilience. This shit is as lush as pubes from the ’70s and brims with the fiery passion that can only come from a place where love and pain coexist. This recording is legendary. Why wouldn’t you fucking listen to it?