In the Key of Pisces: Bedrich Smetana

Wednesday March 2nd 2016
View of Vyšehrad on the Moldau by Emil Wänke

View of Vyšehrad on the Moldau by Emil Wänke

This first fortnight of March is composers’ week. Yesterday was Chopin’s birthday; today the “father of Czech music”, Bedrich Smetana, was born in 1824.

Smetana was a Czech patriot and one of the generation that rose up against the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Revolutions of 1848. The musicologist Rosa Newmarch says Smetana’s three influences were “nationalism, realism and romanticism”. And his chart reflects this assertion beautifully. Smetana was born with the Jupiter-Neptune oppostion — quite helpful for a musician. Jupiter is in tribal Cancer; Neptune is in realistic Capricorn. Together they rule his Sun and Moon in romantic Pisces.

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On the morning of October 20, 1874, Smetana woke up stone deaf. It’s remarkable that we have the exact date of this occurrence. On that night, the Moon conjoined Saturn precisely on his Midheaven (career) at 7° Aquarius. His career as a conductor was over, but his career as a composer, a creator, was about to take off. Saturn is traditionally associated with deafness. Transiting Uranus (shock) was exactly quincunx his natal Uranus in the 8th House — and opposite his natal Mercury (communications, composition, hearing) in Aquarius. Venus was exactly on his Descendant. The most prolific period of composition in his life followed, during which he wrote most of his best-known work.

One of his most famous pieces from this period is the musical portrait of the River Moldau from its source to the River Elbe — appropriate for Sun-Moon Pisces, Jupiter in Cancer. Listen and you can hear the two springs at the start of the piece, which then become one majestic river, which passes through a series of landscapes, past a wedding, mermaids, the glorious capital Prague, high castles.

German conductor (Aquarian) Wilhelm Furtwängler’s interpretation of The Moldau, recorded in 1951, is intensely moving. It seems to have a depth and emotion necessary for this great piece of music.

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  1. aqua says:

    Fascinating stuff Christina. I like your series on Pisces mucisians, its very elegant.
    I find it hard to encompass how someone could compose music without hearing it but then I know nothing about it. I guess you hear it in your head as if humming a tune, but still it seems a monumental task.

    On a tangential note i.e Pisces, I assume you’ve clocked the eclipse on March 9.
    I was ruminating about all the big water what with Neptune Chiron Ceres, Jupiter, Nodes etc and then I saw this rather scary article about the Mosul damn in Iraq – projected fatalities if it fails are 1,000,000 !
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/02/mosul-dam-engineers-warn-it-could-fail-at-any-time-killing-1m-people

    So I checked Iraqs chart – look at the aspects where the eclipse etc falls…
    http://www.astro.com/astro-databank/Nation:_Republic_of_Iraq

    No panic, but should we call the Iraqis? She says, partly joking…

  2. meblake says:

    The Moldau is one of my favorite pieces of music. What a wonderful surprise that you posted it this morning. I’ll listen while reading my morning pages. Thanks!

  3. morgana says:

    Thank you so much Christina – this inspiring series on ‘In the key of Pisces’ has been exquisitely rich for me bringing both familiar and new musicians to my attention. Right now I am drinking in Smetana: how wonderful.
    My father, a 23 feb pisces, died on 25 feb this year. In his last week he could not speak, was very confused, very ill, But I played him lots of music, including Debussy, Chopin, Faure – and Danny Boy, Moon River, – it moved him so much. It was a beautiful and powerful way to communicate and to watch the music move over his face is a memory I will cherish forever. I think it help him surrender to death, and it opened our hearts wide open. So I have been left with huge gratitude for that time.
    I decided one way to honour his memory is to explore more classical music so that I can enjoy its immense riches. And your posts have been very much part of this.

    • Christina says:

      And thank you. What an extraordinary and beautiful way to leave. I hope someone will do the same for me when the time comes.

  4. Sunis says:

    I went on a holiday with work colleagues to Prague and this piece of music was playing while we sipped wine on a tourist boat, floating down the Volga. It’s such a beautiful piece of music, and such a beautiful city. I didn’t believe that King Wenceslaus was a real person (re. the carol), but went to Wenceslaus square and there you are. He was there on his horse. On a more prosaic note, so was a commemorative plaque to two young students who set fire to themselves to protest against Communist rule, in 1982! Hard to believe Prague (and communism) was/is is only 2 hrs from London. Still, a beautiful place and a very lively, vital people.

    This is one of my very favourite pieces of music so thankyou.

  5. Sunis says:

    I seem to be repeating ‘pieces of music’ – Prob ’cause I’ve been reading your recent article about Captain Hook – ‘pieces of eight’ must be on my mind. Apologies.