Plzeňské sympozia

Marta Ottlová

The Folk Song on the Way to Original National Music

pp. 157–163 (Czech), Summary 163 (English)


The name of the essay contains a hidden double meaning, where during the process of creating typically national folk music, the folk song could function as a mitigation for some while as a hurdle for others. This is because in the 19th century, musical composition efforts as well as lyrics facilitating music or expressions of various ideas and theories became a live part of musical culture thanks to the massive boom of printed media. This fact affected the way composition was approached as well as the way it was received. We have selected deliberations on the song of František Soukup to the lyrics of Josef Kajetán Tyl Kde domov můj?  (Where Is Home?) from the fairly unsuccessful comedy Fidlovačka (put on in 1834), which was spontaneously accepted by the public as the Czech national anthem already in the 1860s. This appropriation of a song as the fulfillment of national ideals was also the reason why at the end of the 70s, Bedřich Smetana refused Jan Neruda's request to compose a national anthem. Otherwise, as a composer, Smetana saw much potential for use of folk songs in opera going in line with the popular couleur locale aesthetic derived from Victor Hugo; folk songs were used as a citation, a stylized dance or material for variations in instrumental compositions. The idea of originality and uniqueness popular at the time supported the notion that compositions ought to be critiqued based on originality of the theme or melodic material, which was limiting in other respects. The so-called chase for reminiscence popular by the critics stands as proof. In connection to the published collections of Czech folk songs, a Prague critic found their plagiarized copies in Meyerbeer’s opera Dinorah for example.

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