Smetana, Bedrich (1824-84), Czech composer, the founder of the Czech national school, and, with his compatriot Antonín Dvorák, its greatest representative in the 19th century.
Smetana was born March 2, 1824, in Litomyšl, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), and trained as a pianist in Prague. With the help of the Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt, he established a fashionable music school in Prague in 1848. Dissatisfied with life under the Austrian domination of Bohemia, he accepted an appointment at Göteborg, Sweden, as conductor of the Philharmonic Society and held the post from 1856 to 1861. In 1863 Smetana settled permanently in Prague; he opened another music school and became conductor of the choral society Hlahol. In 1866 he was appointed conductor of the newly established Czech opera house in Prague, but he resigned in 1874 because of sudden deafness. Despite this handicap he continued to compose, and he produced some of his greatest works in the last years of his life. He died May 12, 1884, in Prague.
Smetana fashioned his music, particularly his rich melodic style, on the folk songs and dances of his country and portrayed Czech national life in such works as his comic opera The Bartered Bride (1866) and the cycle of six symphonic poems My Country (1874-79); two popular works from this cycle, the Moldau and From the Fields and Groves of Bohemia, are often performed separately at orchestral concerts. Smetana wrote seven other operas, including The Brandenburgers in Bohemia (1866), Dalibor (1868), Two Widows (1874), The Kiss (1876), and The Secret (1878); symphonic poems in the style of Liszt, including Richard III (1858) and Hakon Jarl (1861); a piano trio in G minor (1855); two string quartets in E minor (1876; often called From My Life) and C minor (1882); and many piano compositions, songs, and choruses.
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Bedřich Smetana biography
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