Bedrich Smetana


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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.

REFERENCES

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.

I. F. BELZA

References in periodicals archive ?
Now, however, Mojzisova and Pospisil have gained funding through the Czech National Museum's "Leading Figures in Czech Sciences and Culture" program to assess materials held in the museum's subsidiary Bedrich Smetana and Czech Music divisions.
Other intriguing events include remarkable cycles and thematic shows; for instance, a recital to be given by the pianist Jitka Cechova, a Bedrich Smetana specialist, on io March in Prague, and the Weekend of Czech Chamber Music, which within the Prague Spring festival will encompass iq performances (from 30 May to 1 June) by first-class Czech ensembles of music by Czech composers, from Smetana and Dvorak to contemporary creators, such as Vladimir Sommer and Lubos Fiser.
The program includes a piano quartet by Gabriel Faur; two harp duets featuring music by George Gershwin and Jean-Baptiste Krumpholtz; a trio by Aram Khatchaturian for violin, clarinet, and piano; a piano trio by Bedrich Smetana, and a scene from Gioacchino Rossini's opera "The Barber of Seville.
Karel Sejna recorded with the Czech Philharmonic the complete orchestral works of Bedrich Smetana (the first My Country on LP no less
Also included will be folk art songs composed by Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana and Leos Janacek.
The bronze monument in front of the Bedrich Smetana Museum at Novotneho lavka in Prague was finally unveiled in 1984, some seventy-five years after the foundation of the Committee.
Neither Antonin Dvorak nor Bedrich Smetana ever visited Ostrava - if truth be told, they had no good reason for doing so.
Tchaikovsky) with pianist Stewart Goodyear on Monday; "Of Music and Nations" (music by Bedrich Smetana, Jean Sibelius and Cesar Franck) with violinist Caitlin Tully on Wednesday; and "The American Muse" (music by Aaron Copland and George Gershwin) with baritone Thomas Meglioranza, mezzo-soprano Sarah Mattox and narrator Myrlie Evers-Williams on Saturday.
In 1976 the Museum of Czech Music was established in the framework of the National Museum by merging the existing music department with the previously independent Museums of Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana.
The program also includes works by Franz Lehar, Bedrich Smetana, Richard Strauss, Arthur Sullivan, Kurt Weill and others, with Robert Ashens as conductor and pianist.
After all the renovation and technical work we shall start moving the musical instruments and note archives there, and also the depositaries of the Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana Museums [these museums are component parts of the CMM] because their buildings have insufficient storage space.
In the category of popularising literature, we do not find Hana Sequardtova: Bedrich Smetana, Editio Supraphon, Prague 1988 or Ladislav Sip's guide Czech Opera and its Creators, Editio Supraphon, Prague 1983.