January 25, 2024

Celebrating Smetana and Czech Music with new release: Má vlast

Pentatone releases Smetana: Má Vlast, together with Semyon Bychkov and Czech Philharmonic, in March 2024.

Musical Contemplation on What It Means To Have A Homeland

The Czech Philharmonic and its Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov present a new recording of Bedřich Smetana’s masterpiece Má vlast (My Homeland). The album celebrates both the bicentenary of Smetana’s birth and, the start of 2024’s Year of Czech Music which has been celebrated every ten years since Smetana’s 100th anniversary in 1924. Má vlast (1874-1878) is a potent symbol of the Czech Republic’s turbulent political history and has played an important role in the Czech national movement. Contemplating the landscape, history, and legends of Bohemia, Má vlast is best known for its world-famous Moldau melody. For Bychkov, who was born in Russia before emigrating to the United States, and now lives in France, the question of ‘the homeland’ is particularly poignant – how to take pride in the best of its heritage, while also coming to terms with its darker pages. For the Orchestra to revisit this seminal piece with Bychkov, with whom it has developed such a close working relationship over the past few years, makes the recording all the more personal and topical. 

The Czech Philharmonic is one of the world’s orchestral gems, recognised for its rich tradition with the Czech masters as well as European repertoire. Semyon Bychkov who is internationally renowned for his interpretations of the core repertoire, began his tenure with the Orchestra at the start of the 2018/19 season. Together, they have so far recorded for Pentatone Mahler’s First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Symphonies (2022-2023), part of the complete Mahler cycle to be released by the label. The Orchestra is also featured on the album Folk Songs (2023) recorded by Magdalena Kožená and Sir Simon Rattle. 

Má vlast, My Homeland, Mein Vaterland, Patria mia, Ma Patrie, Rodina… We all have one. It may be called by a different name, but the feeling is the same – the sense of identification with one’s roots and of belonging. The pride we take in the best of our heritage and the pain of having to live with and come to terms with its darker pages.

So, what does Má vlast mean to me? It is the dream of Rodina, Russia where I was born; My Homeland, which is the United States where I emigrated and was born for the second time; Ma Patrie and France, my home now for nearly half of my life. Each has its own identity, and each must find a way to live peacefully with itself and with the others. It is as natural to be proud of one’s heritage as it is painful to recognize and atone for the stains on one’s history. Yet both are needed equally if humanity is to survive and prosper.

Smetana’s vision shows us the way, which is what makes Má vlast so universal and so contemporary.”

Semyon Bychkov

Digital Release Date: 1 MARCH 2024

Physical Release: MARCH 2024

Released as 1 standard CD and in digital formats for streaming and high-resolution downloads.