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Mar 02

61. Bedrich Smetana [365 Composers for 2013]

2nd March – Bedrich Smetana

 

Smetana (2nd March 1824 – 12th May 1884) is our composer for 2nd March, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: Czech
Lifespan: 60 years
Genre: Nationalism
Education: Prague Conservatory
Fame Ranking: 2

Bedrich Smetana was passionate about music from an early age, and devoted himself to his music studies at the expense of his other school subjects. He received many knock-backs in his musical career – having suffered both financial losses from an unsuccessful performance tour and also several poor receptions to several of his operas. Despite this, and his poor health, he continued to compose and eventually found fame after writing “Ma Vlast”, (“My Country”) which was his orchestral masterpiece.

Smetana studied at the Prague Conservatory and later founded his own piano school. He was more successful as a pianist than as a composer in his early career. Then, when Bohemia was granted political independence in the 1860s, Smetana became involved in the founding of the Bohemian National Theatre. He began to composer operas with a strongly Bohemian style and met with some success, but also some failure.

His health began to suffer as a result of contracting syphilis in his youth. The first symptoms, potentially devastating for a musician, included tinnitus, leading to deafness. Smetana continued composing nonetheless, and in fact it was during this difficult time that he wrote “Ma Vlast”, which is a set of six symphonic poems, each one depicting the scenery, history or myths of Bohemia. The full work was premiered in 1882, although the individual poems had been premiered individually in the years beforehand. Smetana is also quite well known internationally for his opera “The Bartered Bride”.

Smetana’s syphilis ravaged his mind and body. He went mad and was confined to an asylum, where he died. On his death, national mourning was proclaimed in Bohemia.

 

 

 

Here is Smetana’s ‘ “Vltava” from “Ma Vlast”:

 

 

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