Since these songs are intended to evoke mental pictures, I highly recommend setting each to play in turn and then sitting back and seeing how well the mental pictures that form in your mind line up with the intended story/pictures.
I'm also curious to hear what reactions y'all have to these songs. It's always interesting to hear how someone else interprets and responds to evocative music.
7. "A musical description of the course of a central European river, from its source in two small springs, to their unification into a single river, past woods and meadows, past a farmer's wedding celebration, past castles & ruins, through the St. John's Rapids, towards Prague, then vanishing into the distance where it joins the Elbe River."
Bedřich Smetana, Má vlast: Vltava (My Fatherland: The Moldau), 1875. (gotten by judy_w)
Vltava, or as it is better known in America, The Moldau, is one of six songs that make up Má vlast, all of which are intended to depict some element of the geography of Bohemia or of Czech folklore; in this case, the music represents the Moldau River. It seems to be one of those pieces that just about everyone with a working familiarity with classical music knows well, and just about everyone else has never heard of.
This one is good to put on as relaxation/meditation music, or it also makes good background music while doing something else. (This piece was on my mother's "classical favorites" mix tape, so we got to hear it at least once each way on the 8 hour trip to grandma's house.)
8. "Napoleon's seemingly invincible army invades Russia, only to be turned back at Moscow, forced to retreat, and ultimately is defeated."
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Torzhestvennaia uvertiura 1812 goda (Festival Overture "The Year 1812", a.k.a. The 1812 Overture), 1882. (gotten by judy_w and hobbygeek)
Although this piece--or at least the finale--is currently best known for being pulled out every Independence Day in the States, the song has absolutely nothing to do with the American Revolution, and its only relationship with the United States at all is basically guilt by association for going to war with the British who were at war with the French who were at war with the Russians--and the piece is all about the conflict between the latter two. (The cannon part dovetails so well with fireworks, though.) Of course, it's also well-represented in movies and TV shows, any time lots of explosions are appropriate. (Caddyshack being but one example.)
In the second half of the song, listen for La Marseillaise from the trumpets, representing Napoleon's army, and Bozhe, Tsaria khrani! (God Save the Tsar!) from the trombones and tubas, respresenting Russia's army, and the hymn Spasi, Gospodi, liudi tvoia (God Preserve Thy People), representing the Russian people, in a musical chase (with cannons) that ends with the Russian anthem "defeating" the French anthem.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf
(P.S. for coffeechica and anyone else reading this with some knowledge of Cyrillic, as well as for my own future reference: Part 2: "Ночь на Лысой горе" & "Остров мёртвых"; Part 4: "Торжественная увертюра 1812 года", "Боже, Царя храни" & "Спаси, господи, люди твоя".)