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As the 19th century progressed, a nationalist sentiment spread through many countries in Europe that aspired to develop the cultural identities of the peoples of the former empires. At that time, Austro-German culture prevailed on the old continent and the written music composed over the centuries in Italy, France and Germany was considered universal.  However, until the early 19th century, countries such as Russia, Poland, Hungary and the Bohemian region had known and appreciated universal (classical) music through artists who had moved from Italy, France and Germany to the courts of what were considered musically peripheral places in relation to the Western tradition of cultured music.

The need to assert a national musical production was, in some cases, linked to independence movements fighting for national unity and, in others, to the desire to build a strong culture of its own with well-defined borders. In both cases, the drive towards the construction of a national identity was very strong: it concerned both the political and cultural aspects of countries and its people.

As for music, opera was the preferred genre, as it was based on national history and legends; but programmatic works, written for instrumental music, also went in the same direction. 


Musical nationalism was more than just a story.  Composers introduced traditional songs and dances into their music, and composed their melodies using elements of folk music such as scales and rhythms. Especially in Eastern Europe, this need was strongly felt, and triggered processes of redemption of political, territorial and cultural identity. In some cases of true national unity.


However, none of the national composers broke inflexibly with the masters who had preceded them: much of the operatic and instrumental literature developed on the numerous formal and stylistic models marked by the prevailing musical culture of Italy, France and Germany.


Elements and stylistic features of local national cultures were dialectically confronted with the Western musical tradition, generating poetic, aesthetic and political positions that oscillated between nationalism and cosmopolitanism. 

The theme of the 17th edition of the Cartagena Music Festival is: “THE SONG OF THE EARTH: Music between nationalism and cosmopolitanism in 19th century Eastern Europe”. 

The choice of this edition’s theme aims to highlight, through its programming, the main elements of the important phenomenon that answers to the name of Musical Nationalism.  In particular, the phenomenon that developed in some Eastern European countries and that had great cultural, social and political impact in Russia, the former Czechoslovakia (today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia), Romania and Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland. In all these countries the emergence of nationalistic tendencies coincided with a cultural, musical and exceptional flowering that produced works of absolute value and important masterpieces in the history of Western music.

The period under consideration spans from 1830 to 1915. That is to say, almost a century of great transformations that saw the maturity (1830-1853) and the exhaustion (1853-1889) of the great Romantic era and the irruption on the European scene of the modern era, its multiple tendencies and contradictions (1889-1915).