Classical home listening: Má vlast with the Czech Phil; Andreas Scholl revisits Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater

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Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic mark Smetana’s bicentenary in peerless style, while the countertenor and Accademia Bizantina contemplate the Virgin Mary

• Happy birthday Bedřich Smetana! This weekend sees the launch of 2024’s Year of Czech Music, established 100 years ago to mark the composer’s centenary and held every 10 years since. For his bicentenary, the Czech Philharmonic has released a stirring recording of Smetana’s masterpiece, Má vlast (My Homeland), conducted by its chief conductor and music director, Semyon Bychkov (Pentatone). Describing the work as a symbol of Czech independence, “like a national anthem or the holy Bible”, Bychkov urges every detail, every surge, swell or sea of tears, from his players.

Luscious harp arpeggios set the tone in the first of six sections. The famous standalone movement, Vltava (The Moldau), is a swirling vision of the river’s journey from distant forest to Prague and beyond. For 40 near-empty bars, two flutes weave, trickle and swirl, until the dam breaks and inundations of melody cascade forth across the orchestra. The dark story of Šárka, Bohemia’s woods and fields, a strong-willed warrior, Tábor, and the victorious finale, Blaník, complete this work, superbly played with matchless understanding and character.

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