Folkloristic musical works played an essential role in the creation of a ‘Slovak idiom’ in classical music of the post-war period. From the simple arrangement of folk songs to a more autonomous art music (which may have been only partly influenced by folk traditions) there existed a broad spectrum of musical practices, including also film music and music for the professional ‘folk music ensembles’ that appeared after 1948. By referring to specific examples from this large body of music, I will show how composers worked with harmonic and poetic elements that were particular to folk music: my discussion of examples from the breadth of this music — including music for the film Zem spieva ([The land sings], music by F. Škvor), the ‘model’ compositions for the ensemble SĽUK (A. Moyzes) and, finally, the subjective folklorism of the avantgarde in the 1960s and 1970s — shows how Slovak composers worked under changing ideological influences to bring about an ‘ennobling’ of folk music.
Karl Goldmark (1830–1915) was undoubtedly one the most influential composers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and through his first opera – The Queen of Sheba – he was also very well-known abroad. This opera, with its very fashionable oriental subject, was first performed in Vienna in 1875 and was one of the greatest successes of the period. After Merlin (1886) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1896), a “song-opera” strongly influenced by the Biedermeier-period, Goldmark wrote three operas over the next ten years. A Prisoner of War (libretto E. Schlicht, premiered in 1899 in Vienna) was based on one episode of the Iliad. In this short opera the composer tried to express the change of Achilles’ soul, but he mostly failed due to a relatively weak and conventional libretto and vague musical style. In the following opera, Götz von Berlichingen (libretto A. M. Willner, premiered 1902) the libretto is also the weakest element of the work and the whole opera reminds one of Meyerbeer ’s operas. The composer found a renewed inspiration during the work on his last opera – The Winter’s Tale (libretto by Alfred Maria Willner after Shakespeare, premiered in 1907 in Vienna). This fairy tale opera is full of interesting musical moments and elements written in Goldmark’s late style and is still attractive for the opera-going public.