Czechs at war over national anthem

Czechs at war over national anthem


norman lebrecht

April 08, 2018

The head of the Czech Olympic Committee wants the national anthem to be changed before the next Games in 2020.

This infinitely wise and sensitive ex-rower says the anthem is (a) not patriotic or confident enough and (b) too short. It’s over in 80 seconds.

The chair, Jiri Kejval, has formed a committee to find a new anthem to replace the one by František Škroup with something with a bit more swagger (like the Slovaks, for instance).




    This clip of this historic concert from May 12th 1990 begins with the Czech national anthem.

    After the fall of communism, the great Rafael Kubelik returns in Czechoslovakia after 45 years. This is the opening concert of the Prague Spring festival, with Smetana’s Ma Vlast. Hard to watch and listen with a dry eye.

    • MacroV says:

      Agreed. The anthem as played at that concert is an extraordinary moment.

      The Czechs should leave their anthem alone. Now, if we can only change our American anthem; terrible music, racist lyrics, referring to a minor battle in the War of 1918…

  • Alex Davies says:

    On the contrary, the Czech national anthem is just about the only national anthem that I can think of that has any real value as music. Indeed, it is telling that it was originally composed as a song for the theatre and was only later adopted as the Czech anthem, unofficially and then officially, on account of its popularity. A number of countries do have superficially impressive anthems: Russia, the USA, France, Poland, for example. Britain’s national anthem is a tedious dirge that could have been composed by a child. The Czechs should consider themselves fortunate indeed that their anthem is musical and neither bombastic nor boring. And the words could hardly be more patriotic: they describe the extraordinary natural beauty of the Czech landscape, concluding that it is in fact paradise on earth. Let’s hope that this gains no traction.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Thanks. So the post above is actually a huge exaggeration. Nobody is talking about changing the national anthem to something completely new and different. What is being proposed is a new arrangement of the original music the uses the text of both verses.

      Rather like in the UK we usually just use the first verse of the national anthem, then on particularly important occasions we use the second verse too (which I believe is the only other officially sanctioned verse these days), and in church it’s not uncommon to finish with a third verse that begins, “Not in this land alone”. Then as for the music, I believe that there is an official arrangement that was approved by King George V, but in reality more extravagant arrangements are probably sometimes devised.

      What I would say about this arrangement is that it simply isn’t very good. To be fair to this composer, I think he’s done the best job he could under the circumstances. His brief was no doubt to take a simple, rather wistful, song and to turn it into something pompous and triumphalist. I guess it’s like when the BBC’s Songs of Praise is using some hymn tune that is a beautiful old English folk song, such as Kingsfold, but it isn’t exciting enough for TV, so they throw in some dramatic trumpet fanfares and glissandi on the harps.