THE magic of musical storytelling is surely nowhere better captured than in Bedrich Smetana’s six symphonic poems, together telling of the myths, legends and beauty of his homeland Bohemia.

This powerful, patriotic, unrivalled nationalist composition encompasses tales of knightly valour, a magnificent castle, rage, deception, vengeance, the natural beauty of the landscape, defeat, victory and the journey of the mighty majestic Vltava river, by far the best known of the six pieces.

The connection between music and cultural identity of course runs long and deep and Smetana is seen as one of major inspirations in the ambition of independent Czech statehood, ultimately achieved.

For those like me, relatively unfamiliar with all but the much played Vltava and Bohemia’s Woods and Fields, a screen over the stage told each story in words.

In another departure from the norm, the audience was encouraged to applaud between movements.

Conductor Jac van Steen, principal guest conductor at the Prague Symphony Orchestra (so who better to be at the podium for the evening) instructed at the outset: “In fact, you are not allowed not to applaud between movements.”

In Vltava, the second piece, Smetana evokes the sounds of one of Bohemia’s greatest rivers, rising as two springs, through woods and meadows, with nymphs dancing in the moonlight, past castles and ruins swirling through rapids and bursting into Prague and onwards.

The sixth movement speaks to warriors, battle and ultimate victory.

In the rousing, uplifting finale, the High Castle of Vyšehrad, Prague stands proudly over the lands of Bohemia.

Maestro was compelling and the players’ performance overflowing with joy, pride and exuberance.

A triumph all round then. We all clearly thought so.

Andy Martin