My Country

A Cycle of Symphonic Poems After Bedřich Smetana

Petr Kofroň composer
Marek Piaček composer
Miloš Štědroň composer
Pavel Zemek Novák composer
Miroslav Tóth composer
Daniel Forró composer

Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr conductor

Release Date: October 8, 2021
Catalog #: NV6349
Format: Digital
21st Century

Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast is a cornerstone of the Czech Republic’s musical culture, heard in everything from celebrations and funerals to advertisements and fireworks shows. On MY COUNTRY, six composers—Petr Kofroň, Marek Piaček, Miloš Štědroň, Pavel Zemek Novák, Miroslav Tóth, and Daniel Forró—pay homage to country and Smetana’s iconic symphonic poems. Rather than presenting an album of simple interpretation, each composer takes one poem and adds their own flair, reimagining each piece and drawing from their individual styles. The 19th-century masterwork is inflected with a multitude of genres and ideas, including smoky cabaret, red-hot tango, and alien attacks on Earth. The Brno Contemporary Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Šnajdr, navigates the different styles with ease, handily uniting each piece into a cohesive whole.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Hrad / Castle Petr Kofroň Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr, conductor 12:05
02 Aqua Mater Marek Piaček Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr, conductor 12:46
03 Šárka Miloš Štědroň Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr, conductor 9:27
04 Kratší Dopis Bedřichu Smetanovi (s B a Es) / A Short Letter To Bedřich Smetana (With B-flat And E-flat) Pavel Zemek Novák Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr, conductor 9:16
05 Stratený V Tábore / Lost In Tábor Miroslav Tóth Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr, conductor 11:20
06 Blaník Daniel Forró Brno Contemporary Orchestra | Pavel Šnajdr, conductor 14:41

Recorded November 25-27, 2020 at Janáček Theatre’s Recording Studio
in Brno, Czech Republic
Session Producer, Engineer, Editing, Mixing & Mastering Jan Košulič
Additional Editing & Mixing Lucas Paquette
Assistant Engineer Lukáš Nábělek

Cover image and main typography Martin Hrdina
Original cover photo Jan Prokopius

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Mike Juozokas

General Manager of Audio & Sessions Jan Košulič
Recording Sessions Director Levi Brown
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Brno Contemporary Orchestra

Brno Contemporary Orchestra


The Brno Contemporary Orchestra (BCO) was founded in 2011 with the aim of performing the world’s contemporary music and selected 20th-century works in Czechia and Czech music throughout the world. The ensemble includes top-level professional musicians employed in the leading Czech orchestras. It draws on a large pool of permanent collaborators who perform in various lineups according to the needs of each project.

Pavel Šnajdr


Pavel Šnajdr is a Czech conductor and composer. He is a graduate of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), Brno in composition (which he studied with Alois Piňos) and conducting (with Emil Skoták). Beyond working with symphony orchestras, he has been engaged by music theatres including the J.K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, the Prague State Opera and the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc, and currently conducts opera at the National Theatre in Brno.

Petr Kofron

Petr Kofroň


Petr Kofroň (born 1952) is a Czech composer, conductor, and educator. He graduated from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (1974–1979), taught at the Faculty of Education, Charles University, Prague (1980–1989), and was the artistic director at the Pilsen Opera (1996–2004, 2011–2014) and the Opera of the National Theatre in Prague (2013–2019).

He has been the artistic director of the Agon Orchestra since 1983. Kofroň started to compose in the early 1970s, taking conceptualism as his point of departure; his works investigated aspects of extreme auditory experience, the options for sound moving around space, and similar issues. In 1975, he turned to primitive diatonic music and musical sentiment, exploring the works of Isaak Dunayevsky, among others. After 1983, he wrote several ritual compositions under the influence of Aleister Crowley’s hermetic philosophy. Since 1989, this intellectual foundation has been expressed in a transformation of Kofroň’s works, previously nostalgic, into aggressive music that does not work within the usual parameters, but only with the ‘energy’ of the sound, the playing, and the players. In recent years, he has increasingly been involved with pop and rock music: he wrote the musical, Magic Flute (2006), the opera, Mai 68 (2008), and quasi-jazz pieces for big band orchestra, such as Titan Symphony (2005) and Magor (2008). Since 1993, Kofroň has focused on graphic scores, preparing works by Anestis Logothetis, Miroslav Ponc, Milan Grygar and Milan Knížák for performance. Later, in 2012, he recorded graphic scores by Milan Adamčiak. Since 2000, he has arranged several alternative rock pieces: Petr Křečan – Kilhets (1998), Filip Topol (2000), Blixa Bargeld (2000), The Plastic People of the Universe (Ladislav Klíma – Aj obešel já polí pět, 2002, Pašije, 2004), Brian Eno (2003), MCH Band and Agon Orchestra (2005), DG 307 and Agon Orchestra (2006), and David Koller and Agon Orchestra (2012). For more detail visit

Marek Piacek

Marek Piaček


Marek Piaček (born 1972) is a Slovak composer and lecturer. A co-founder of the Požoň Sentimental ensemble, he has composed operas, symphonic and chamber works, and music for theatre and dance productions and films. He also applies himself to electronic, electro-acoustic and improvised music.

Piaček’s music has been featured in many concerts and festivals at home and abroad, and on more than 40 CDs, DVDs, and LPs. He leads music workshops and is the author of several theoretical papers and books, including Music as a Theatre, Music as an Enowning, and Music as an Action. He has developed many radio programs using his professional and artistic skills. Presently he is active as a music and video producer at the Slovak Philharmonic and teaches at the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. The inspirational sources of his artistic ideas include the philosophy of syncretism and the theoretical concept of the reception-aesthetics of music.

Milos Stedron

Miloš Štědroň


Miloš Štědroň (born 1942) is a Czech composer and musicologist. He graduated in musicology and Czech studies from the Faculty of Arts, Jan Evangelista Purkyně University (UJEP) in Brno and concurrently worked as an assistant at the Department of the History of Music, Moravian Museum.

He also led the Small Music Theatre. He went on to study composition and music theory at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. Quickly gaining a reputation as a composer, he joined the Department of Musicology, Faculty of Arts, UJEP, obtained his ‘habilitation’ (senior lecturer status) and was later appointed professor at what by then had become Masaryk University. Štědroň has written music for many dramas and films, collaborating with Brno’s Divadlo Husa na provázku and other leading Czech and Slovak theatres. He composes orchestral, chamber, and choral concert works as well as music for folk instruments. His concert works, often inspired by folklore and ancient music, show Štědroň’s intimate knowledge of the techniques of New Music, jazz, and popular music. In bringing his incidental music to performance and in recording his works for the radio or other media, he has often taken on the roles of music director, conductor or pianist. Štědroň is also a leading musicologist, a brilliant scholar of music history, including its links with history in general, and the history and theory of art.

Pavel Zemek Novak

Pavel Zemek Novák


Pavel Zemek Novák (born 1957) graduated in composition from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno and spent time as an exchange student with George Benjamin in London and Gérard Grisey in Paris. He played oboe in the orchestra of the Janáček Theatre in Brno. Since 1989, he has taught composition at the Brno Conservatory.

Known for his originality, for years he has explored the possibilities of monophony (playing in unison) in pieces ranging from small chamber compositions to extensive orchestral works. Maturing as a composer, he has developed the technique of unison into a distinctive, calm, contemplative personal style. This results in unostentatious, yet elegant pieces full of movement, energy, and rhythmic and metric invention – only when we look under the surface do we realize how technically demanding they are. Also characteristic of Novák is the sonic fullness of his compositions (somewhat unexpected given the chosen compositional method) and, particularly, their strange color-world; thanks to the reduction to monophony or octaves, we hear the instrumental colors as if in their pure form, ‘uncolored’ by harmony. As for the intellectual background of the pieces, Biblical themes prevail, even though the music has nothing in common with traditionalist ‘spiritual’ kitsch. Novák’s oeuvre is extensive and many of his pieces have been performed by noted artists both at home and abroad. Many have also been issued on CD (e.g., in 2011, the British label Champs Hill Records published William Howard’s rendition of Novák’s 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano).

Miroslav Toth

Miroslav Tóth


Miroslav Tóth (born 1981) is a Slovak composer, sound designer, and saxophone player. He earned his PhD at the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, having studied with Michal Rataj. Previously he obtained a master’s degree in composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, where he studied with Vladimír Godár. Until Year Three, he studied with Jevgenij Iršai.

He learned composition from Ilja Zeljenka. He is also a graduate in musicology from Comenius University in Bratislava. He received three Radio Head Awards for experimental music for his composition Kyberpunkomša (2018) and the albums S’ihmon (2019) and + (with the band Shibuya Motors, 2020). He also received awards from film festivals in Belgium and France for his music and sound design for the movie Servants (2020). He wrote the single-act operas Man in a Spacesuit, Mystery of the Pole, and Miraculous Massaging Pole for Public Authority Officials as well as three video-operas, Tooth for Tooth, Eye for Eye, and Pole. He also wrote the incomplete opera Outpark. His piece The Quartet of Tentacles Reaching Out was performed by the Kronos Quartet. He wrote the works Theory of Absolute Sadness for soprano and orchestra, Greetings to Bold Times (a chamber violin concerto), the cabaret suite BallOnAir, the Requiem for a Mafioso in ten parts for choir a cappella and a countertenor, a chamber piano concerto, works for a chamber ensemble, a number of electro-acoustic works, as well as works for smaller groups and soloists. In addition, there have been pieces for the ensembles in which he has played, including Dunkeltherapie and the Funeral Marching Band. As saxophonist, he focuses on free improvisation and performance of graphic scores and open works. He has performed contemporary pieces at festivals such as Prague Spring (2017) and as a soloist has appeared alongside the Prague Philharmonia performing compositions by Jan Trojan (in 2017 and 2018). In 2006, he founded the improvisation orchestra Frutti di Mare, a variable ensemble of more than 60 performers who appear in 11 distinct conceptual projects. That same year he established the improvisation ensemble, Musica Falsa et Ficta, with which he has performed in a number of concerts and events. He also recorded Martin Burlas’s Hexenprozesse in 2015. Currently Tóth works as a sound designer and music director at Czech Radio.

Daniel Forro

Daniel Forró


Daniel Forró (born 1958) is a composer in many genres and a multi-instrumentalist, improviser, educator, journalist, and polyglot. He graduated from the Brno Conservatory in organ and from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), Brno in composition, which he studied with Alois Piňos; in 1999 he earned a Ph.D. in the theory of composition from the same institution.

He has lived in Japan since 2003. In his oeuvre, he exploits a poly-stylistic synthesis of historic music and world music with elements of jazz, rock, and pop. This synthesising approach does not prevent him from experimenting. He has written several thousand pieces of concert and incidental music, often using electronic instruments and microtones. As a concert artist in various genres, he has participated in thousands of concerts. He has promoted electronic instruments in classical music for their distinctive identity. In 1978–1984, he was a member of the rock bands Progres 2 and Bronz. Since 1983, he has concertized as Forrotronics with programs comprised of electronic, computer, microtonal and improvised music. He has taught since 1975, established his own Forrotronics School in 1990, and has also taught at JAMU, leading the Department of Electro-Acoustic and Computer Music and the Section for Electro-Acoustic Instruments from 1993 to 2003. He has also taught courses for external students and summer masterclasses. In 1999–2003, he taught courses in rock music. From 1992 to 2003, he cooperated with electronics manufacturers and their distributors in many European countries as a specialist, expert adviser, and lecturer in electro-acoustic instruments, MIDI, studio technology, and computers. He was one of the first performers in the world to play the Yamaha VL1 Virtual Acoustic synthesiser.


Like the Czech nation had to be created in the 19th century, its national music had to be created as well. This role fell to Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884), who was allegedly more Czech and less Slavonic than Dvořák or Janáček. Smetana rose to the challenge, and in 1882 completed his amazing work, Má vlast, a cycle of six symphonic poems — Vyšehrad, Vltava, Šárka, Z českých luhů a hájů, Tábor and Blaník — which sing the praises of the historic milestones and picturesque landscapes in which the Czech nation had suffered and flourished. Though it may seem surprising, Smetana’s Má vlast continues to characterize the Czech nation in our cosmopolitan age. His fascinating cycle of symphonic poems is still an undisputed icon of the nation. Over time, it became a monument to anything and everything: Hitler and Stalin, Gottwald and Havel – they all listened to it. It is heard at celebrations and funerals, after defeats and victories, in advertisements, at funfairs and firework displays, everywhere, without anyone actually listening to it. Smetana’s music has disappeared under an accretion of ideas, ideologies, politics, and economic machinations.

Led by Pavel Šnajdr, the Brno Contemporary Orchestra has offered music as it is since 2011, without embellishment or cliché. With full confidence, it offers only what is in the actual score. With that as its mission, the orchestra selected composers to create their own versions of the symphonic poems in Smetana’s cycle, to recompose them as they hear them today. The brief was simple. We don’t want to provoke, we don’t want to parody, we don’t want to glorify; we are only interested in what Smetana’s Má vlast means to you today. Six autonomous works were written, offering six views of Smetana’s musical legacy.

Petr Kofroň takes one of the secondary motifs from Vyšehrad, only a fragment of an idea, a little joke, repeating it vigorously, unfolding it throughout his composition. Against the background of Smetana’s Vltava, Marek Piaček presents a post-modern, eclectic digression reaching to the music’s possible sources, from Monteverdi to an upright piano in a smoky cabaret. Miloš Štědroň’s Šárka is much more lascivious and seductive than Smetana’s; he transforms the drama of the Maidens’ War into a red-hot tango erotico. Pavel Zemek Novák respectfully wanders off in search of the age-old path in Z českých luhů a hájů (From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields) in order to arrive, exploiting fragments of Smetana’s music, at his distinctive style in unison with sustained notes. Miroslav Tóth’s reworking of Smetana’s Tábor largely dispenses with the bellicose roar of God’s warriors, though it is still heard in the background, only to be almost revealed in the conclusion. Under the fabled Blaník Mountain, a horde of valiant Hussite warriors are sleeping, waiting to aid the Czech nation on its journey to a fabulous future; yet so far they haven’t shown up, and in his piece, Daniel Forró provides a hyperbolic and ironic comment on this fact. Only when — in the distant future — the aliens attack us, will the fighters finally be roused from their sleep, and as the mountain creaks open, they ride out to charge the invaders and fight for the Czech nation, albeit as somewhat sleepy marionettes.

“I do not plagiarise any famous composer, I only admire their greatness, and from them I accept for myself all that I acknowledge as good, beautiful and, especially, true, in art.”
–Bedřich Smetana in a letter to Adolf Čech, 4 December 1882

First presented in a gala premiere at Prague’s Žofín on November 5th, 1882 under the baton of Adolf Čech, Bedřich Smetana’s imposing series of six symphonic poems, Má vlast, is described at every opportunity as the most amazing work in our history. So truthfully does it rouse, praise, and encourage the Czech people, whether we find ourselves subjected or victorious. It hardly needs to be listened to in order to be described in these terms. It has been venerated by the Czech nation, the Czechoslovak, and the Czech state by Masaryk, Hitler, and Stalin. It was performed at Prague Castle to mark the founding of Czechoslovakia, in Berlin and Dresden for NSDAP members, in arms factories to celebrate the construction of socialism, and in Prague’s Old Town Square when communism was toppled. It is played to promote Pilsner beer and Olomouc cheese, and to enhance state visits, school concerts, and festive fireworks. In short, anyone and anything can parasitise the cult of Má vlast.

Lest it be forgotten, we have decided to return to the most important aspect, the music itself. We have attempted to cleanse it of all its cultural, social, national, ideological, political, and economic baggage, and to examine in detail how Smetana’s celebrated Má vlast might sound in the 21st century.

The cycle of recomposed symphonic poems was commissioned in 2018 for a gala concert for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the independent Czechoslovakia. Initially, we approached three Czech and three Slovak composers, but circumstances dictated that it ended up like the Pittsburgh Agreement and left us with four Czechs and two Slovaks. It was supposed to be varied, with diverse personalities and different compositional approaches; it was supposed to be free – distinctive composers unencumbered by notions about the right way to tackle it; it was supposed to be timeless – various generations and various experiences; and most important, it was supposed to be candid. And this is how it emerged: Petr Kofroň (Vyšehrad), Marek Piaček (Vltava), Miloš Štědroň (Šárka), Pavel Zemek Novák (Z českých luhů a hájů), Miroslav Tóth (Tábor) and Daniel Forró (Blaník).

“The harps of the prophets begin to play, the prophets sing about the events at Vyšehrad, about the glory, splendour, tournaments, battles, and finally about the decline and ruin. The work ends with an elegiac tone…”

—  Bedřich Smetana: Vyšehrad

“Bedřich Smetana was one of those who developed his inventive ideas sparingly. A Philistine would say, ‘there’s hardly anything there.’ Smetana’s ‘reductionism’ of sorts was rather of the ‘idea versus padding’ variety, expressing the conviction that an idea wrapped in padding is beautiful and silky smooth. Walking in Smetana’s footsteps, I went further in reductionism, since ‘only an often-repeated joke becomes truly funny’ and ‘to the Czech nation, one cannot serve an idea entirely, but only in small bits, which then arrange themselves in the complete idea so that nobody can understand it at all.’”

— Petr Kofroň: Hrad (Castle)

“The composition depicts the course of the Vltava, from its first two sources, the Cold and Warm Vltava; then the two brooks become one, running through forests and meadows, through landscape where merry feasts are being celebrated; water nymphs dance in the moonlight; castles, chateaus and ruins soar proudly on rocks nearby; the Vltava swirls in the St John Rapids; flows in a broad stream towards Prague; Vyšehrad comes into view; then the river, in its majestic flow, finally disappears in the distance, joining the Elbe.”

– Bedřich Smetana: Vltava

“Rivers bring us to sources – to the sources of meaning, creativity, certainty, satisfaction and equanimity. Rivers bring us to the fountainhead. The composition Vltava, Aqua Mater was written on commission from the Brno Contemporary Orchestra for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the common republic of the Czechs and Slovaks.”

– Marek Piaček: Aqua Mater

“This composition does not refer to a landscape, but to the fable of Šárka the maiden. The work starts with the depiction of the furious girl who, for the unfaithfulness of her lover, swears revenge on all men. From a distance, we hear the arrival of Ctirad with his retinue, on a mission to punish the maidens. From far away, they hear the — deceitful — wailing of a girl tied to a tree. Upon seeing her, Ctirad admires her beauty. His amorous passion for her flares up and he frees her. With a prepared potion, she refreshes and intoxicates both Ctirad and his retinue until they fall asleep. At a sign from the French horn, which the maidens hidden in the distance answer, they burst forth to carry out the bloody deed – the horror of general slaughter, and the rage of Šárka’s satiated vengeance that brings an end to the composition.”

— Bedřich Smetana: Šárka

“How does one paraphrase Šárka? Or, as some might say, parasitise this part – no less brilliant than the other parts – of this amazing cycle, unparalleled in the history of music? Why, it bewitched even such a monster as Adolf Hitler. After Richard III and Macbeth, Smetana searched here for the ‘genuine’ Czech romanticism, which in his time continued to be dampened by patriotic society, which rejected and watched over such torn individuals as Mácha, pointing to the tasks facing the nation, in which there was no time or place for emotion, and where the artist apologises for them. So I decided to treat Šárka as a tango erotico. Indeed, even Šárka herself as displayed by Bohemian chroniclers is depicted as much more prudish than in world literature, to which she was introduced by Pope Pius II, the humanist Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini, who in his anti-Bohemian book about the history of Bohemia wrote a brief, almost Decameron-like novelette about her. What remains for me is a momentary desire for tango, passion, and the South, reminiscences of an advanced age, yet it is here that we are at home…”

— Miloš Štědroň: Šárka

“This is a general depiction of the feelings aroused by the sight of the Bohemian landscape. Singing full of ardour resounds from all sides, both merry and melancholic, from fields and woods. Everything is extolled here: the forest regions in the horn solos, the blissfully fecund lowlands of the Elbe, and much, much more. Everyone may draw their own picture from this work as they like; the poet has an open road ahead of him, though he must follow the work in detail.”

— Bedřich Smetana: Z českých luhů a hájů (From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields)

“Oppressed by the virtuoso notions of this world and the ambivalence of our own notions, we wandered through the time entrusted to us and through its transmutations, and sought the age-old path: with respect, in unison with sustained notes, with fragments of the original score.”

— Pavel Zemek Novák: Kratší dopis Bedřichu Smetanovi (s B a Es) (A Short Letter to Bedřich Smetana (with B-flat and E-flat))

“The motto: ‘Ye Who Are God’s Warriors!’ The entire edifice of this composition is based on this majestic chorale. In Tábor, the city of the Hussites, this hymn surely resounded most powerfully and most frequently. The work depicts their strong will, their victorious battles, their steadfastness, perseverance, and dogged intransigence, with which the piece ends. It cannot be fragmented into details, because it expresses the glory and the praise of the Hussite struggle and the indomitable character of the Hussites.”

— Bedřich Smetana: Tábor

“Lost in Tábor – that does not sound like fun. No matter. As a small child, I did not like school or other camps — the name of Tábor, the Hussite city, means ‘camp’. I did not like to meet new people, but actually the worst thing was to say goodbye to them at the end of the stay. At one camp I learned to play table tennis quite proficiently. I enjoyed that and remember it well. It was my first encounter with the post-modern. The green tables stood in a hall under frescoes, with partisans towered over our heads. Hooray for battle! Well, at least during World War II. What would Smetana say to this if he were alive? Would he be sad, or would he learn to play ping pong?”

— Miroslav Tóth: Stratený v Tábore (Lost in Tábor)

“This is a continuation of the previous piece, Tábor. Once the Hussite heroes are ultimately defeated, they take refuge by the Blaník Mountain where, in heavy slumber, they wait for the moment they are called upon to aid their homeland. Therefore, the same motifs as in Tábor serve as the foundation of this composition, taken from ‘Ye Who Are God’s Warriors!’ On the basis of this melody, this Hussite principle, the resurrection of the Czech nation, and its future happiness and glory develops. With this victorious hymn in the form of a march, the composition ends, and with it the whole cycle of symphonic poems Vlasť. As a brief intermezzo, we hear a short idyll, a depiction of the Blaník region where a little shepherd calls out and the echo answers.”

— Bedřich Smetana: Blaník

“I have not changed much about the extra-musical theme of the work, but I have moderated Smetana’s pathos and nationalist optimism, characteristic of its time, and I have a bit of a laugh with it. I have added three minutes of electronic collage, a kind of a ‘historic cadence’ in the middle of the piece, before the Blaník knights ride out. This cadence illustrates the history of the Czech nation throughout the 20th century — World War I, the decline of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the emergence of the Czechoslovak Republic, World War II, the totalitarian era under the rule of a single party, ‘The Velvet Revolution,’ the Czech accession to the EU, and the dangers of Islamic terrorism and migration — in which I believe there are not many events of which we can be proud. There is a humorous ending – the Blaník knights sleep through all the convulsions of history and do not aid their nation. Only when in the distant future the aliens attack us — with the five-note motif quoted from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind — will they wake up and as the mountain creaks open, ride out to charge the invaders and fight for the Czech nation, albeit as somewhat sleepy marionettes.”

— Daniel Forró: Blaník 2018