Smetana, Bedřich

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Smetana, Bedřich

Bedřich Smetana (bĕ´dərzhĬkh smĕ´tänä), 1824–84, Czech composer, creator of a national style in Czech music. He studied in Pilsen and in Prague, where in 1848, with the encouragement of Liszt, he opened a music school. From 1856 to 1860 he was a conductor at Göteborg, Sweden. In 1861 he returned to Prague and took an active role in founding a national opera house. His first patriotic opera, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia, was produced there in 1866. In the same season his most famous work, The Bartered Bride, was staged. It presented a genial picture of village life in Bohemia and reflected the spirit of Czech folk music and dance. The opera was immensely successful, and Smetana was appointed chief conductor of the National Theater. He retained that post until 1874, when he became deaf. Afflicted by nervous disorder for many years, he died in an insane asylum. Smetana's other operas include Dalibor (1868), The Kiss (1876), The Secret (1878), and Libuše (1881). His symphonic poem My Fatherland (1879) contains the well-known section Vltava (The Moldau). Almost all his music is programmatic, even two string quartets, From My Life (1876, 1882), the earlier of which is one of his finest works.

See biographies by B. Large (1970) and J. Clapham (1972).

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