Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884), is to be
remembered as the creator, or at least the awakener, of Bohemian music.
After a short education at the Prague university Smetana entered
diligently upon the study of music, becoming a brilliant pianist, and
as such forming one of the circle of enthusiastic and advancing souls
surrounding Liszt at Weimar, between 1850 and 1860.
September 1855 marked the death of his second child, his beloved
four-year-old daughter Bedriska. When his third child died nine months
later, he committed himself to composition, producing the Piano Trio in
G minor. This piece is full of sadness and despair, making use of
phrases that are cut short, possibly in resemblance to his daughter's
His first position as musical
director was at Gothenberg,1856. Here he lost his wife, the brilliant
pianist Katharina Kolar. In 1861 he made a long concert tour to Sweden.
In 1866 he was appointed director of the music at the national theater
in Prague, a position which he held until obliged to give it up on
account of loss of hearing in 1874.
Smetana wrote eight operas upon Bohemian subjects, with music in the
Bohemian spirit; one best known is "The Bartered Bride," which was the
last composed. He also wrote about ten symphonies or symphonic poems,
and a great variety of chamber music. Of his symphonic poems those most
often played are: "In Wallenstein's Camp," "Moldau," "Sarka" and
"Visegrad." In all these the titles are mainly suggestive, although in
"Sarka" a programme is quite closely followed.
Bedrich Smetana was a brilliant composer, but his great value lies in
awakening of the Bohemians to musical creation. He was also great
influence on Antonin Dvorak,
who similarly used Czech themes in his works. Smetana's work influenced
many other Czech composers who came after him, and continues to inspire
many musicians today.