Musical nationalism refers to the use of musical ideas or motifs that are identified with a specific country, region, or ethnicity, such as folk tunes and melodies, rhythms, and harmonies inspired by them. Musical nationalism can also include the use of folklore as a basis for programmatic works including opera.
Nationalism as a musical phenomenon is generally understood to have emerged part way into the Romantic era, beginning around the mid-nineteenth century and continuing well into the twentieth. It initially began as a reaction against the dominance of "German" music and later developed alongside the growing movements for national liberation and self-determination that characterized much of the 1800's. Countries or regions most commonly linked to musical nationalism include Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Spain, UK, Latin America and the United States.
It should also be noted that musical nationalism is a term often used to describe non-European twentieth century music as well, in particular that originating in Latin America.
Czechoslovakia is a country formed in 1918 by the combination of the Bohemian, Moravian, and Slovakian territories. These territories had been under the control of the Habsburg Empire. As a result, the imperial language, German, and the imperial religion, Catholicism had become a way of life for the Czech people.
In order to preserve the native language, a Provisional Theater was organized in Prague. This theater would promote the Czech language, composers, folk music, and programs using national themes.
Smetana was the first great Czech nationalist composer, a Bohemian. His first nationalist work was written in 1863, in Czech, as a contest entry to the Provisional Theater. He learned to read and write Czech to enter the competition. This opera, Branibori v Cechach (The Brandenburgs in Bohemia) has a historic plot, but the music does not represent folk song.
His second opera, Prodana nevesta (The Bartered Bride, 1863-1866), incorporates folk melodies, and was a success beyond Czechoslovakia. Also included in his nationalistic works are the six tone poems Má vlast (My Fatherland, 1872-1880).
Dvořák was the most successful of the Czech nationalist composers. He performed viola in the Provisional Theater under Smetana, and was mentored by Brahms.
Dvořák included Bohemian themes and elements into much of his music. In 1871, he left the Provisional Theater and began to set a libretto by a Czech writer, Lobesky, titled Král a uhlíř (The King and the Charcoal Burner). Unfortunately, this opera was not successful. More notable for their national content are his six Slavonic Dances (1879) and the Slavonic Rhapsodies (1880).
Dvořák was invited to New York in order to direct the first national conservatory in America. While abroad, he studied African American and Native American music. Some say that these styles are incorporated into his American works: Symphony no. 9 op. 95 ( From the New World ), The "American" string quartet op. 96, and the "American" string quintet, op. 97.
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) http://sologuitarist.net/images/dvorak.jpg
Janáček did a lot of work researching and cataloguing Moravian folk music. His work inspired further research. Because of his interest in folk music, he was predisposed to modality and pentatonic scales which appear frequently in Moravian folk music. He generally wrote without key signatures, in order to freely move between modes.
His most famous opera, Jenůfa (1904), was originally written in Czech and translated into German. Janáček was very careful in supervising the translation in order to preserve the integrity of the libretto.
Janáček was deeply influenced by folklore and by folk music in particular. His interest was not of the idealized romantic vision of folklore in the 19th century, but rather oriented to the realistic, descriptive and analytic approach. Janáček partly composed the original piano accompaniments to more than 150 folk songs, with respect for their original function and context, and partly used folklore inspiration in his own works, especially in his mature compositions. Even though he didn't intentionally imitate the style of any folklore area with which he was acquainted, it is apparent that the basis of his style is to a large degree influenced by folk music. Janáček's systematic practice of writing down folk songs formed an exceptional feeling for melody and rhythm of human speech which helped him to compile a list of distinctive segments that he would term "speech tunes" . He later transformed those extracts of spoken language in his vocal and instrumental works. The roots of his style, marked by the lilt of human speech, grow from the universe of folk music.
Grieg began composing national music after visiting Ole Bull, a violinist and researcher of folk music. His most notable pieces are the incidental music for plays, including his music for Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1874-1875). He also composed many piano works in a national style. Edvard Grieg is the greatest composer Norway has fostered. In retrospect, one may wonder how a country with neither national freedom nor a long tradition of art music could have produced a man of such genius.
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) http://www.pianoparadise.com/grieg.jpg
Jean Sibelius had strong patriotic feelings for Finland. He chose to write program music rather than base his works on Finnish folk music. For his contributions, the government awarded him a pension.
In 1899, patriotism was running high in Finland. Sibelius composed the symphonic poem Finlandia (1899) for a festival, and this rallied the Finnish citizens into a patriotic fervor. A portion of this tone poem has been arranged as a chorale; it remains an important national song of Finland, and is also present in many Protestant hymnals.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) Jean Sibelius lived at Ainola from the autumn of 1904 until his death. He felt that the best environments for writing music were either big cities or the quiet of the countryside. "Here in Ainola the silence speaks," he said in his only radio interview, given in 1948. Sibelius in the countryside at Ainola. http://www.sibelius.fi/english/graafiset_elementit/ainola_kuvat/sibelius_ainolassa.jpg
Albéniz studied at many of Europe’s premiere conservatories, including the Escuela Nacional de Música y Declamación in Spain. His piano works reflect his Spanish heritage, including the Suite Iberia (1906-1909). In this piece the piano imitates the guitar and castanets, traditional Spanish instruments.
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) http://records.viu.ca/~mcneil/jpg/albeniz.jpg
Granados composed zarzuelas , a type of Spanish musical theater. He composed his work Goyescas (1911) based on the etchings of the Spanish painter, Goya. Also of a national style are his Danzas españolas and his first opera María del Carmen .
In Great Britain, nationalist music was more prominent in Scotland, Ireland and Wales than in England. These countries have always had a strong connection to their heritage, and Romantic composers incorporated elements of British folk music into their works.
Joseph Parry (1841-1903)
Parry was born in Wales, but moved to the United States as a child. In his adulthood, he traveled between Wales and America, and performed Welsh songs and glees with Welsh texts in recitals. He composed the first Welsh opera, Blodwen (1878).
Joseph Parry (1841-1903) http://farm1.static.flickr.com/145/433426209_ad36b8f886.jpg?v=0
Stanford incorporated Irish and English elements in his music, including five Irish Rhapsodies (1901-1914). He published volumes of Irish folk song arrangements, and his third symphony is titled the Irish symphony .
Charles Stanford (1852-1924) http://www.stainer.co.uk/images/cvstanford.jpg
Mackenzie (also claimed as a Scottish nationalist composer) prepared and published arrangements of Scottish folk songs, and many of his compositions contain folk elements. Included in these are his Highland Ballad for violin and orchestra (1893), and the Scottish Concerto for piano and orchestra (1897). He also composed the Canadian Rhapsody .
Alexander Mackenzie (1847-1935) http://imslp.org/index.php?title=Category:Mackenzie,_Sir_Alexander_Campbell&
Cadman spent time on the Omaha and Winnebago Indian reservations and recorded their songs. He arranged and published some of them. Cadman presented a series of recitals with the Omaha princess Tsianina Redfeather, a mezzo-soprano, and composed an opera, Shanewis or The Robin Woman (1918), based on her life.
Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946) http://cache.eb.com/eb/image?id=67451&rendTypeId=4
Farwell also worked with Native American music, but also studied Anglo American and African American folk songs, as well as Mexican and Cowboy music. He founded Wa-Wan Press to publish his American Indian Melodies (1900) and works by contemporary composers.
Arthur Farwell (1872-1952) Arthur Farwell was an American composer, conductor, educationalist, lithographer, esoteric savant, and music publisher. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Farwell
Charles Edward Ives (October 20, 1874 – May 19, 1954)
Ives was an American modernist composer. He is widely regarded as one of the first American classical composers of international significance. Ives' music was largely ignored during his life and many of his works went unperformed for many years. Over time, Ives would come to be regarded as an "American Original"; Ives combined the American popular and church-music traditions of his youth with European art music, and was among the first composers to engage in a systematic program of experimental music, with musical techniques including polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, and quarter tones, thus foreshadowing virtually every major musical innovation of the 20th century. Sources of Charles Ives’ tonal imagery are hymn tunes and traditional songs, the town band at holiday parade, the fiddlers at Saturday night dances, patriotic songs, sentimental parlor ballads, and the melodies of Stephen Foster.
Charles Edward Ives (October 20, 1874 – May 19, 1954) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ives This photo from around 1913 shows Ives in his "day job". He was the director of a successful insurance agency.