THE NATIONALIST COMPACT
Smetana was adamant that a true national opera need not and should not rely on folk songs, even in the case of comic operas where their use had always been traditional. The Czech writer Josef Srb-Debrnov, a close friend of Smetana's who later translated a libretto for him, recalled a heated debate between the composer of The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and František Rieger, the director of the theater where the opera was to be produced. Rieger maintained that a national style had to depend on folk songs if it was to be recognizable as such. Smetana flew into a rage and (in Tyrrell's paraphrase) told Rieger that an opera written to such a prescription “would be a mere collection of songs, a potpourri, and not a unified artistic whole.”6 Later he wrote that “imitating the melodic curves and rhythms of our folksongs will not create a national style, let alone any dramatic truth—at the most only a pale imitation of the songs themselves.” Ironically enough, he might have been describing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, potpourris not of Hungarian folk songs but (mainly) of Gypsy cabaret tunes. Liszt composed them, in full awareness of their ethnic spuriosity, not to give his ostensible countrymen an icon of self-representation, but to give his Western European audiences an exotic treat. (That Hungarian audiences nevertheless accepted them joyfully as a national icon adds a typically ironic wrinkle to the story; but their joy in the music was conditioned partly, even primarily, by the “world” celebrity of the composer.)
- Citation (MLA):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 9 Slavs as Subjects and Citizens." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-009002.xml>.
- Citation (APA):
- Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 9 Slavs as Subjects and Citizens. In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 27 Jan. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-009002.xml
- Citation (Chicago):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 9 Slavs as Subjects and Citizens." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 27 Jan. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-009002.xml