That's the "micro" story. But the inner divisions within these lands are just as fascinating. Buda versus Pest, for example. Moravia versus Slovenia. We'll be exploring all of this during our wonderful tour.
Q: Your research interests include German Romanticism, which represented a new crossroads of art, philosophy, and science, the dominant movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and a widespread reaction in Germany and England to the French Enlightenment. What impact did the Romantic movement have on Eastern Europe?
A : Many of us grew up viewing Eastern Europe as a block of countries trapped behind the Iron Curtain. We forget that this division didn't exist in history. There was a free and active flow of cultural life from London to Paris to Leipzig to Prague, particularly in the 19th century. All you have to do is look at the concert schedules of an artist like Franz Liszt to see how intertwined the cultural capitals of Europe were.
Speaking of Liszt, so many Eastern Europeans were central "movers and shakers" of European Romanticism. Yes, the literary roots of Romanticism came from Germans but those ideas spread like wildfire as far away as Russia and America.
And the music was wonderfully international: think of the significance of just three Romantic composers: Chopin (Polish), Liszt (Hungarian), Dvořák (Czech). Chopin and Liszt made their careers in Paris, while Dvořák exerted influence on American music.
The Polish violinist Henryk Wieniawski, for example, was adored nearly as much as Paganini. We could talk about gypsy music, which affected Brahms as much as it did Liszt. And we haven't mentioned the poets and painters! But we'll have time to do all of that on our tours.
Q: The grand finale of the "Old World Europe" program is a private tour of the exquisite and unique Lobkowicz Museum, and dinner in picturesque Prague Castle. The Lobkowicz family history is intricately intertwined with the history of Europe, and the Museum houses rare manuscripts as part of their vast collections, including original Mozart and Beethoven manuscripts. What do you hope the Smithsonian travelers will take away from this special visit?
A : The Lobkowicz family was one of the great European patrons for art. You could even think of them as "jet-setters" for their time, as they had many residences. Their primary palace in the 18th century was in Vienna, which is where the connection with Beethoven was forged. They hosted glittering events associated with the Congress of Vienna and generally fostered the arts. But their hereditary palaces were in Bohemia, and their presence in Prague, even today through the stunning Lobkowicz Museum, still affects Czech cultural life.
So, it's marvelous that we'll be ending our tour this way. We'll be able to imagine ourselves as part of their glittering circle, if only for one festive evening.