In the Key of Pisces: Bedrich Smetana
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.
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.