Bedrich Smetana

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Smetana, Bedřich


Born Mar. 2, 1824, in Litomyšl; died May 12, 1884, in Prague. Czech composer, conductor, pianist, and public figure in the world of music.

Smetana studied in Prague under J. Proksch. While still a child, he came in contact with the ideas of the Bouditeli (Awak-eners). He began concertizing as a pianist in 1847 and played publicly for more than 20 years. During the period 1847–56 he directed a music school that he founded in Prague. From 1856 to 1861, Smetana lived in Göteborg, Sweden, where he performed as a conductor and pianist. During these years, he composed the piano works Six Characteristic Pieces (two books, 1848), which Liszt praised, and Memories of Bohemia (polkas, I860) and the symphonic poems Richard III (1858), after Shakespeare, Wallenstein’s Camp (1859), after Schiller, and Haakon Jarl (1861), after Oehlenschläger.

In 1862, Smetana began performing in Prague as an orchestra conductor, choral director, and pianist. He also taught, wrote music critiques, and organized public musical and educational activities. Beginning in 1863 he directed the Hlahol chorus in Prague and the music section of the Umĕlecká Beseda arts club. From 1866 to 1874, Smetana served as operatic conductor of the Provisional Theater. He enriched the theater’s repertoire, presenting not only the Western European classical operas but also works by Czech composers, including F. Škroup, K. Bendl, and L. Mĕchura, he also conducted the operas of M. I. Glinka and S. Moniuszko’s opera Halka. It was here that Smetana supervised the staging of his own operas and conducted many of their premieres, thus laying the foundations of the national operatic repertoire.

Smetana wrote a total of nine operas, including the historical musical drama The Brandenburgers in Bohemia (1863), which called for liberation from national and social oppression, and his most famous work, the comic opera The Bartered Bride (1866, Prague; 3rd version, 1870, St. Petersburg), which is still performed in many countries. The Bartered Bride is marked by realistic scenes from the everyday life of the people, the joy of life, and the melodic quality of its music, based on folk tunes and the rhythms of Bohemian dances. The tragic opera Dalibor (1868) provoked a polemic in which Smetana was supported by the progressive leaders of Bohemian culture, including J. Neruda and O. Hostinský; others accused the composer of departing from national traditions under the influence of Liszt and Wagner.

In connection with his loss of hearing, Smetana resigned from his post as conductor and settled in the village of Jabken-ice, near Prague, where he composed his finest orchestral works, including the cycle Má Vlast (1874–79), consisting of six programmatic symphonic poems: Vyšehrad, Vltava (The Moldau), Šárka, From the Fields and Groves of Bohemia, Tábor, and Blaník. The work celebrates the Bohemian countryside and people, using heroic national legends. While in Jabkenice, Smetana also wrote the operas The Secret (1878), The Devil’s Wall (1882), and Viola (unfinished; staged 1924), two string quartets (1876 and 1883), the first of which is autobiographical and entitled From My Life, and other chamber-instrumental works, choral works, and the Czech Dances for piano (1877–79).

Smetana was a composer-patriot, who fought for progressive artistic ideals. His creative work, marked by its national idiom and the great skill of its creator, determined later paths of development in Czech music. In Prague, a concert hall, a string quartet, and a musical society have been named in honor of Smetana; the musical society has published the composer’s complete works. The Smetana Museum, founded in 1928, is located in Prague and has branches in Litomyšl and Jabkenice.


Gulinskaia, Z. Bedrzhikh Smetana. Moscow, 1959.
Martynov, I. Bedrzhikh Smetana. Moscow, 1963.
Belza, I. Istoriia cheshskoi muzykal’noi kul’tury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1973. Chapter 3.
Hostinský, O. Bedřich Smetana a jeho boj omoderní českou hudbu. Prague, 1901.
Nejedlý, Z. Bedřich Smetana, books 1–7. Prague, 1950–54.
Plavec, J. Smetanova tvorbásborová. Prague, 1954.
“Soupis dopisu Bedřicha Smetany.” Miscellanea musicologica, 1960, vol. 15.
Clapham, J. Smetana. London, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Smetana's Litomysl Festival was named after one of the greatest composers of the 19th century and creator of modern Czech classical music, Bedrich Smetana. A native to Litomysyl, Smetana is celebrated every summer with the festival.
Czech composers This time the Prague-based orchestra returns for a concert celebrating the music of two Czech composers, AntonE[degrees]n DvorEik and Bedrich Smetana. They will play DvorEik's Violoncello Concerto, op.104, B.191, B minor, featuring Moser on cello in the first half of the concert.
Selections include works by Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana and Claude Debussy.
Three excerpts from Bedrich Smetana's Ma Vlast - the Czech composer's deeply-felt hymn to his homeland - found Mr Houlding drawing a stirring and evocative account from his musicians, and not least from harpist Anita Aslin, whose sweeping strains on the instrument opened Vysehrad (a rocky headland) in such glorious style.
Bedrich Smetana's series of tone poems celebrating his native Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), Ma Vlast (My Homeland), written in 1874, has always been one of my favorite pieces of music.
Bedrich Smetana: Ma vlast Piano Duo Trenkner / Speidel: Evelinde Trenkner & Sontraud Speidel Text: EN, FR, GE.
4: "Mendelssohn and Elgar," plus Bedrich Smetana and Thomas Ads; guest violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen
Evan James would have felt very much at home in the Slovak revival town of Turciansky Svaty Martin or with Bedrich Smetana among the Czechs of Prague.
S kym korespondoval Bedrich Smetana/Bedrich Smetana's Correspondents/Mit wem korrespondierte Bedrich Smetana. By Olga Mojzigova and Milan Pospisil.
The CD features Bedrich Smetana's Trio in G minor, Dmitri Shostakovich's Trio No.
Guests receive exclusive 50 percent off savings to hear Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini" at ESO March 2 and 3 concerts that feature Grammy-winner Jason Vieaux, described as "among the elite of today's classical guitarists," playing the Villa-Lobos' Guitar Concerto and John Corigliano's "Troubadours," and also include composer Bedrich Smetana's "The Moldau," a musical journey along actual sites on the river.