Bedřich Smetana

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About Bedřich Smetana

In his native Czechia (originally Bohemia), Smetana is a national hero, honored as the father of Czech music. For many, he is still unrivaled as the musical portrayer of his country’s landscapes and its people. In fact, the middle-class family into which he was born in 1824 spoke only German (the dominant language of the Austrian Empire), and Smetana had to learn the indigenous language as well as discover its folk music. His musical talent was recognized very early, and when it was allied to passionate nationalism, it enabled him to create some of the defining masterpieces of the Czech national tradition, including the epic opera Dalibor (1868) and the hugely popular pastoral comedy The Bartered Bride (1866). The six vividly pictorial symphonic poems that make up Má Vlast (My Country, 1874-79) have remained firm favorites, and together they have opened every Prague Spring Festival since 1952. Tragically, Smetana was unable to enjoy his rising success during his last years. A venereal infection robbed him first of his hearing (painfully encapsulated by a piercing high violin E in his first string quartet, From My Life, 1876), and then of his sanity. He worked on, heroically, for as long as he could, but died in an asylum in Prague in 1884.

Leitomischl, Czech Republic
March 2, 1824
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