For those in my class unfamiliar with his music, I would like to introduce a composition by the great Czech composer, Bedrich Smetana (1824 - 1884). The composition is Vltava (The Moldau), from a set of six "symphonic poems" called Ma Vlast (My Homeland). When we get to "The Dry Salvages", the third of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, I will probably allude to this composition as an example of both "program music" and a "tone poem". I see it as a good metaphor by which to approach to a feeling for the poem.
The music is descriptive of the main river of the Czech Republic, the Vltava (which you might know by the German name of that river, "Die Moldau").
The music begins with a depiction of the sound of water dripping from melting snow and ice in the mountains, becoming a tiny stream, and eventually the great river flowing through the grand and beautiful city of Prague. It flows through the city, past dancers at a farmer's wedding, past old castles, over rocks becoming whitewater; eventually it flows into the distance where it joins the river Elbe, which flows to the sea.
Please listen to one or more of these recordings:
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (with photos of Prague and the Moldau)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Wilhelm Furtwangler conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Karel Ancerl conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra