The Moldau is the best-known of the six symphonic poems that constitute Má vlast (“My Country”), composed by Bedrich Smetana between 1874 and 1879.
A ‘symphonic poem’ means that the music illustrates or evokes a poem/painting/story. In this case – the journey of a river is being evoked. It is the Vltava which runs through the heart of the present day Czech Republic, towards Prague.
The music is also known as program music referring to the fact that the ‘story’ being conveyed in the music is outlined in the concert program for the audience to read. Knowing the ‘story’ adds to the appreciation of the music in such cases:
Two springs gush forth in the shade of the Bohemian forest, the one warm and spouting, the other cool and tranquil. Their waves joyously rushing down over their rocky beds unite and glisten in the rays of the morning sun. The forest brook fast hurrying on becomes the river Vltava, which flowing ever on through Bohemia’s valleys grows to be a mighty stream: it flows through thick woods in which the joyous noise of the hunter’s horn are heard ever nearer and nearer; it flows through grass-grown pastures and lowlands, where a wedding feast is celebrated with song and dancing. At night the wood and water nymphs revel in its shining waves, in which many fortresses and castles are reflected as witnesses of the past glory of knighthood and the vanished warlike fame of bygone ages. At the St. John Rapids the stream rushes on, weaving through the cataracts, and with its foamy waves beats a path for itself through the rocky chasm into the broad river into which it vanishes in the far distance from the poet’s gaze.(Source: http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/?fuseaction=composition&composition_id=2102)
Close your eyes, and be swept away in this beautiful harmonic poem 🙂