Bendřich Smetana 1824-1884
This great composer, Bendřich Smetana, was son of a beer brewer. Born in Litomyšl, Bohemia, he was his father’s eleventh child and the first son to survive infancy. His father, an amateur violinist and great admirer of music, made Bendřich Smetana’s musical education a priority. Therefore, young Smetana had started learning piano and violin at the early age of four with great aspiration. After only two years of lessons, he had his first piano recital and was already playing in a string quartet. At the age of eight, he started composing.
His love for music greatly intensified throughout the years. It was his first passion and, despite his great interest for philosophy and literature, came before anything else. His greatest wish was to one day become a truly great composer.
At the age of nineteen, he formally settled in Prague earning a living as a tutor to a family of aristocrats. Up until this point, he clearly lacked a formal musical education. In order to make his dream of one day becoming a composer a reality, he continued his composition and piano studies. His eventual friendship with Franz Liszt proved to be of great importance throughout his musical career.
Two of his greatest works were The Bartered Bride and Má Vlast. After having taken part in the fighting during the nationalist uprising in 1848 and gaining a name amongst Czech nationalists, moving to Sweden to further his musical career, and then eventually returning to Prague, The Bartered Bride had been first performed in 1866, the very same year Smetana got the opportunity of a lifetime… He was named principal conductor of the Prague Provisional Theater Orchestra, a position he held for eight years. To give you an idea of what a great orchestra this was, it must be said that Anton Dvořák was the first chair violinist.
Má Vlast, translated as “My Fatherland” was completed in 1879. Its composition took Bendřich Smetana seven years to complete. In its 6 cycles, this symphonic poem is symbolic of the Czech nationalist movement representing their political and cultural oppression.
The pieces of this great composer have been performed throughout Europe and America in the great concert halls of yesteryear and today; it goes without saying why this great composer, Bendřich Smetana, became known as “Father of Czech Classical Music”.
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