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Bedrich Smetana

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Bedrich Smetana's statue in Plzen
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Bedrich Smetana's statue in Plzen

Bedřich Smetana Template:Audio (March 2, 1824 Litomyšl - May 12, 1884 Prague) was a Czech composer, remembered especially for his set of six symphonic poems M vlast (My Country). Possibly his best-known composition is the second poem in that cycle, Vltava (The Moldau).

Smetana was a son of a brewer. He studied piano and violin from a young age, and played in the amateur string quartet that other members of his family were in. Smetana attended a high school in Plzen in 1840-1843. He studied music in Prague, despite initial resistance from his father. He secured a post as music master to a noble family, and in 1848 received funds from Franz Liszt to establish his own music school.

September of 1855 marked the tragic death of a second of Smetana's children, this time his beloved four-year-old daughter, Bedřiska. When a third child died nine months later, he committed himself to composition, producing the Piano Trio in G minor. This piece is full of sadness and despair, making use of phrases that are cut short, possibly in resemblance to his daughter's own life.

In 1856, Smetana went to Gothenburg in Sweden, where he taught, conducted and gave chamber music recitals. In 1863, back in Prague, he opened another school of music, this one dedicated to promoting a specifically Czech music. In 1874, syphilis caused him to become deaf, but he continued to compose; M vlast was written after his deafness ensued. As if plain deafness were not enough, Smetana also suffered from tinnitus, which caused him to hear a continuous, maddening high note which he described as the "shrill whistle of a first inversion chord of A-flat in the highest register of the piccolo."

His string quartet in E minor, Z mho života (From My Life, composed in 1876), the first of only two quartets, is an autobiographical work. The final movement is punctuated by a piercing high E in the first violin which, Smetana stated, represents the devastating effects of his tinnitus. He may also be hinting at this personal misfortune with his scoring of the piccolo in M vlast.

In 1883 Smetana, suffering further progressive neurological effects of his syphilis, finally became insane, and was taken to a mental hospital in Prague, where he died the following year. He is interred in the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague.

Smetana is noted as being the first composer to write music that was specifically Czech in character. Many of his operas are on Czech themes, the best known being the comedy, The Bartered Bride (1866). He used many Czech dance rhythms and his melodies sometimes resemble folk songs. He was a great influence on Antonn Dvořk, who similarly used Czech themes in his works.

A complete chronological list of Smetana's operas:

External links

de:Bedřich Smetana es:Bedřich Smetana eo:Bedřich SMETANA fr:Bedřich Smetana he:בדז'יך סמטנה nl:Bedrich Smetana ja:ベドルジハ・スメタナ pl:Bedřich Smetana sk:Bedřich Smetana

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