Anton Dvořák: Tone poem 'Polednice' (The Noonday Witch)

The South Birmingham Sinfonia will be performing this tone poem as part of the Winter 2015 concerts.

Poldenice is the Czech name for the slavic sorceress (usually translated into English as the noon witch or the noonday witch, but "mid-day witch" might be better) pictured as a young woman in white carrying a scythe or shears and roaming the fields at the height of the day in summer, striking workers down with heat stroke and madness. She often takes the form of whirling dust clouds and often stops to engage people in conversation to ask them riddles or difficult questions. Woe betide those who cannot answer correctly!

In Dvořák's tone poem, a mother warns her son that if he does not behave she will summon the Witch to take him away. He does not, and the witch arrives at the stroke of noon. The witch demands the child. The mother, terrified, grabs her son, and the witch chases them. Finally the mother faints, grasping her child. Later that day, the father arrives home, and finds his wife passed out with the dead body of their son in her arms. The mother had accidentally smothered him, while protecting him from the witch. The story ends with the family's lament over the terrible event.

Dvořák's music follows the story closely. The final version we shall hear was first performed in London in 1896 under Henry Wood.