Music of the Czech Republic

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Music of the Czech Republic comprises the musical traditions of that state or the historical entities of which it is compound, i.e. the Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia, Czech Silesia). Czech music also constitutes a substantial part of the music culture of its direct predecessor, Czechoslovakia.

Czech Republic Country in Central Europe

The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name, Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the northeast. The Czech Republic covers an area of 78,866 square kilometers (30,450 sq mi) with a mostly temperate continental climate and oceanic climate. It is a unitary parliamentary republic, with 10.6 million inhabitants; its capital and largest city is Prague, with 1.3 million residents. Other major cities are Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc and Pilsen. The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, the United Nations, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.

Czech lands

The Czech lands or the Bohemian lands are the three historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia. Together the three have formed the Czech part of Czechoslovakia since 1918 and the Czech Republic since 1 January 1969, which became independent on 1 January 1993.

Bohemia Historical land in Czech Republic

Bohemia is the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic. In a broader meaning, Bohemia sometimes refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in a historical context, such as the Lands of the Bohemian Crown ruled by Bohemian kings.


Music in this area has its roots in sacred music from more than a thousand years ago. The oldest recorded song from this territory is the hymn Hospodine, pomiluj ny ("Lord, Have Mercy on Us"), dating from the turn of the 11th century. [1]

Hospodine, pomiluj ny Czech Christian hymn from the turn of the 10th and 11th century

Hospodine pomiluj ny is the oldest known Czech song. The hymn is a paraphrase of the Kyrie Eleison with deep choral melody. Its text preserves traces of Church Slavonic origin.

Traditional music

Bohemian traditional music includes that of Chodsko (CS), where bagpipes are common. Moravian traditional music is known for the cimbalom, which is played in ensembles that also include double bass, clarinet and violins. The traditional music of Moravia displays regional influences, especially in Valachia with a Romanian and Ukrainian legacy, and has close cultural relations with Slovakia and Lachia (the borderland of northern Moravia and Czech Silesia) with its Polish aspects.

Bagpipes Musical instrument

Bagpipes are a woodwind instrument using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. The Scottish Great Highland bagpipes are the best known in the Anglophone world; however, bagpipes have been played for a millennium or more throughout large parts of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, including Turkey, the Caucasus, and around the Persian Gulf. The term bagpipe is equally correct in the singular or plural, though pipers usually refer to the bagpipes as "the pipes", "a set of pipes" or "a stand of pipes".

Moravian traditional music

Moravian traditional music or Moravian folk music represents a part of the European musical culture connected with the Moravian region of the Czech Republic. Styles of Moravian traditional music vary by location and subject, but much of it is characterized by a specific melodic and harmonic texture related to the Eastern European musical world. According to Czech musicologist Jiří Plocek, Moravia is the area where the European East musically meets the West.

Cimbalom concert hammered dulcimer

The cimbalom is a type of chordophone composed of a large, trapezoidal box with metal strings stretched across its top. It is a musical instrument commonly found in the group of Central-Eastern European nations and cultures, namely contemporary Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland. It is also popular in Greece and in gypsy music. The cimbalom is (typically) played by striking two beaters against the strings. The steel treble strings are arranged in groups of 4 and are tuned in unison. The bass strings which are over-spun with copper, are arranged in groups of 3 and are also tuned in unison. The Hornbostel–Sachs musical instrument classification system registers the cimbalom with the number 314.122-4,5. Moreover, the instrument name “cimbalom” also denotes earlier, smaller versions of the cimbalom, and folk cimbaloms, of different tone groupings, string arrangements, and box types.

A famous dance from the region is the Bohemian polka.

The polka is originally a Czech dance and genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. The polka remains a popular folk music genre in many European countries, and is performed by folk artists in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, Croatia and Finland, and to a lesser extent in Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, Russia, and Slovakia. Local varieties of this dance are also found in the Nordic countries, Spain's Basque Country, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Latin America and the United States.

Ukázka z řemeslnického tance Břitva, traditional Czech Folk Song.

Bohemian music

Early evidence of music from this region is documented in manuscripts from the library of the Cistercian monastery in Vyšší Brod (founded in 1259). One of the most important is manuscript No. 42, from 1410. It contains a hymn called Jezu Kriste, ščedrý kněže ("Jesus Christ Bountiful Prince"), that people would sing during the preaching of John Huss.

Vyšší Brod Town in South Bohemian, Czech Republic

Vyšší Brod is a small town in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It has around 2,600 inhabitants and it is the southernmost municipality in the Czech Republic. Vyšší Brod Monastery, an important historic landmark, is located in the town. The city has many tourists attractions like the Cistercian cloister, the Lake Lipno which connects to the Vltava River and the historical town center.

With the development of towns in the 15th century, music started to play an important role in two Bohemian centers: Prachatice and Sušice. Václav z Prachatic (Václav of Prachatice) dealt with the theory of music at the Charles University in Prague. His manuscript Musica magistrii Johannis de Muris accurtata de musica Boethii is a collective work on the theory of music inspired by the thoughts of Johan de Muris, who worked in Paris, and is in the university library.

Prachatice Town in Czech Republic

Prachatice is a town in the South Bohemian Region, Czech Republic.

Sušice Town in Czech Republic

Sušice is a town in the Pilsen Region of the Czech Republic. It lies on the Otava River, some 60 km (37 mi) to the south of the regional capital of Pilsen.

Extensive musical activities in Prachatice took place in the second half of the 16th century during the Renaissance, a notable period of literátská bratrstva ("men of letters brotherhoods"). Their main focus was community singing performed during ceremonial services. The brotherhood established its memorial book in 1575, which described its activities until 1949, when the brotherhood perished. The Habsburg Counter-Reformation in Bohemia after 1620 also affected music in the region. Catholic priests performed Gregorian chorals, while the people sang spiritual songs often based on the Protestant tradition. This ended in a new Catholic edition of hymn books such as Capella regia musicalis.

The Czech classicism period is exemplified by František Xaver Brixi, Johann Baptist Wanhal, and Augustin Šenkýř. Among the 18th and 19th century composers are Vincenc Mašek (CS), Jan Jakub Ryba, Jan August Vitásek. In the 19th century German and Austrian productions also had their place here. The founder of Czech national music Bedřich Smetana was inspired by the Bohemian Forest while creating his symphonic poem Vltava . Antonín Dvořák was also inspired by the Bohemian Forest in his piece called Klid pro violoncello a orchestr.

The traditional music of Bohemia and Moravia influenced the work of composers like Leoš Janáček, Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, and Bohuslav Martinů. Earlier composers from the region include Adam Michna, Heinrich Biber, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Johann Wenzel Stamitz and Johann Ladislaus Dussek.

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  1. Thomas, Alfred (1998-01-01). Anne's Bohemia: Czech Literature and Society, 1310-1420. U of Minnesota Press. p. 25. ISBN   9780816630547.