Bedrich Smetana was regarded as the founder of Czech classical
music. Smetana holds an important place in the development of
musical nationalism in his native Bohemia. He was the son of a
master brewer in the service of Count Waldstein and others. His
career was interrupted by a period of self-imposed exile in Sweden,
after the political disappointments that followed the turmoil of
1848. He was instrumental in the establishment of Czech national
opera and a Czech national style, in particular in his symphonic
poems. He was deaf in later life, but continued to compose, an
autobiographical element appearing in his string quartets.
Bedrich Smetana was born in 1824. He was the eleventh child in his family, but the only child to survive infancy. By the age of six he had played in his first quartet. He was giving piano recitals by the age of seven and composing music one year later. In 1843, he settled in Prague and began to tutor children from an aristocratic family. After taking a tour in Sweden he took up a director's post at the Göteberg Philharmonic Society. Here he became friends with Franz Liszt and Robert Wagner.
In 1866, Smetana conducted a performance of his first successful large-scale composition, The Bartered Bride. It went on to become one of his most famous pieces. Its overriding mod is uncharacteristically one of joyous optimism. Much of the music was influenced by his evening walks on the banks of the Vlatava river.
Smetana spent the next seven years composing his massive piece
My Fatherland. It represented the distress of the Czech people and
their longing desire for freedom. During his last years, with the
onset of a venereal disease, his compositions began to lack the
luster of the earlier years. However, his first string quartet, a
piece called From My
Life, depicts the effects of deafness on Smetana. Smetana's
mental health degenerated with his age and in 1884 he committed to
an insane asylum. He became Czechoslavakia's first nationalist
composer and would influence the lives of the genereation of
composers after him. He died in 1884.
His Famous Compositions
His notable pieces include My Fatherland, The Bartered Bride,
The Kiss, The Secret, and his famous string quartet, From My
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