Friday, September 19, 2014

Private guide in Prague

Bedřich Smetana

He was born on 2nd of March, 1824 in Bohemia, in this time part of the Austro-hungarian Empire, and died on 12th of May, 1888. With Smetana started the musical style linked to the Czech nationalism. He wrote his first composition during the protest of the nationalist movement in Prague in 1848, when he was 24 years old. Therefore, he is recognized in his country as the father of Czech music. Internationally, he is well-known for his opera The Bartered Bride and also for the cycle of symphonic poems Ma Vlast (My Homeland) that represents the history, legends and landscape of the composer's homeland.

Smetana had a natural talent for the piano and gave his first recital when he was six years old. Unable to start his career in Prague, he went to Sweden, where he established himself as a teacher and choir director and began to write large-scale orchestral works. During this period Smetana was twice married and had six children, three of them died in infancy.

In the early 1860s a more liberal political climate in Bohemia encouraged Smetana to return permanently to Prague. He surrendered to 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 new Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. The same year, Smetana became the theater's principal conductor, but the years of his leadership were marked by controversy. Factions musicians of the city considered his music identified with the progressive ideas of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, who were against the development of a distinctively Czech opera style. This opposition interfered with his creative work and may have accelerated the degradation of his health, precipitating his resignation from the theatre in 1874.
In late 1874, at 50 years old, Smetana became completely deaf but, free of his theatre duties and the controversy, it caused that he began a period of sustained composition continuing for almost the rest of his life. His contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognized and honoured, but a mental collapse early in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum, and later to death. Smetana's reputation as the founding father of Czech music was strengthened in his native country, where defenders have become icon above his contemporaries and successors. However, relatively few of Smetana's works are in the international repertory, and most foreign experts tend to consider Antonin Dvorak as the most important Czech composer. 

Bedrich Smetana Museum

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