The Bartered Bride

Smetana Bedrich Bedřich Smetana (Czech 2 March 1824, Litomyšl, Bohemia — 12 May 1884, Prague, Bohemia) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country’s aspirations to independent statehood. He…

The Bartered Bride

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Smetana Bedrich

Bedřich Smetana (Czech 2 March 1824, Litomyšl, Bohemia — 12 May 1884, Prague, Bohemia) was a Czech

composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country’s

aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music.

Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride, for the symphonic cycle Má vlast (“My

Motherland”) which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native land, and for his First

String Quartet From My Life. Smetana was naturally gifted as a pianist, and gave his first public performance at the

age of six. After his conventional schooling, he studied music under Josef Proksch in Prague. His first nationalistic

music was written during the 1848 Prague uprising, in which he briefly participated. After failing to establish his

career in Prague, he left for Sweden, where he set up as a teacher and choirmaster in Gothenburg, and began to

write large-scale orchestral works. During this period of his life Smetana was twice married; of six daughters, three

died in infancy. In the early 1860s, a more liberal political climate in Bohemia encouraged Smetana to return

permanently to Prague. He threw himself into the musical life of the city, primarily as a champion of the new genre

of Czech opera. In 1866 his first two operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, were

premiered at Prague’s new Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. In that same year, Smetana

became the theatre’s principal conductor, but the years of his conductorship were marked by controversy. Factions

within the city’s musical establishment considered his identification with the progressive ideas of Franz Liszt and

Richard Wagner inimical to the development of a distinctively Czech opera style. This opposition interfered with his

creative work, and may have hastened the health breakdown which precipitated his resignation from the theatre in

1874. By the end of 1874, Smetana had become completely deaf but, freed from his theatre duties and the related

controversies, he began a period of sustained composition that continued for almost the rest of his life. His

contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognised and honoured, but a mental collapse early in 1884 led to

his incarceration in an asylum, and his subsequent death. Smetana’s reputation as the founding father of Czech

music has endured in his native country, where advocates have raised his status above that of his contemporaries

and successors. However, relatively few of Smetana’s works are in the international repertory, and most foreign

commentators tend to regard Antonín Dvořák as a more significant Czech composer.

WIKIPEDIA:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedřich_Smetana

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