Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale

Bedřich Smetana - Libuše Overture

The beautiful Prague where Smetana came to study. He'd rather watch the concerts than go to school.

In 1848 liberal revolutions broke out throughout Europe. Most of them crashed, but their effect gave ordinary people an unprecedented pride in their national identity. This feeling was particularly strong in Bohemia, where the Czechs were for centuries under the rule of the Habsburgs, the monarchs of Austria.

This revival of patriotism was conveyed by Bedřich Smetana to the music of Libuše's three-act festival opera, which he wrote from 1869 to 1872. As Smetana was an excellent craftsman of the symphonic poem, his operas had freshness and dramatic intensity.

Although deeply influenced by Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, he created a highly personal, sensational music that praised the spirit of the Czech people. The opera refers to the legendary events that led to the establishment of the first Royal Bohemian Přemyslid dynasty in the 13th century.

The opera was not just a stage work, but rather an epic destined to be presented in great festive occasions. "I regard this opera as my most perfect dramatic work," Smetana himself said of Libuše. Seventy years later, when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II, they realized that opera was still axing the patriotism of the Czechs and banned it.

The imposing fanfare of the trumpets, which resonates at the beginning of the Libuše Overture, invokes the legendary royal world which is also the theme of opera. However, the softer and more lyrical part of the flute and the oboe that follows, states that Libuše refers to both human passions and royal magnificence and heroic feats.

The orchestra picks up the lyrical theme from the woodwinds and develops it by adding new elements of royal grandeur, to return to a melancholy mood. The initial fanfare sounds distant before the dramatic return of the orchestra, announced by the rhythmic beat of the drums. This intensely patriotic and moving work ends with a serene note.