Bedrich Smetana

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Portrait photo by Bedřich Smetana (c. 1878).
Signature of Bedřich Smetana

Listen to Bedřich Smetana ? / I [ bɛdr̝ɪx smɛtana ] (* 2. March 1824 as Friedrich Smetana in Litomyšl ; † 12. May 1884 in Prague ) was a Czech composer of Romantic . His best-known work is Die Moldau (Vltava) from the symphonic cycle Mein Vaterland (Má vlast) . Audio file / audio sample


Portrait of Smetana's mother, Barbora Smetanová
Memorial plaque in Havlíčkův Brod, where Smetana attended grammar school from 1836 to 1839

Friedrich Smetana was the eighth child of František Smetana (1777-1857). His mother, the father's third wife, was called Barbora Smetanová, née Lynková (1792–1864). His father was a brewer in the service of Bohemian aristocratic families like the Waldsteins or the Czernins . The child was christened Friedrich or Frydrych . It was only as an adult that he developed his sense of Czech nationality , learned the Czech language and consciously changed his first name to the Czech form of the name Bedřich . His first Czech letter is from 1856, but he used German in his diaries until 1861.

Smetana began taking violin and piano lessons at the age of four. He was so enthusiastic about a concert by Franz Liszt in Prague that he forgot about school. His father therefore sent him to the Premonstratensian grammar school in Pilsen , which Bedřich attended from 1840 to 1843. During this time he made friends with Kateřina Kolářová, a good pianist, who became his first wife. From 1843 to 1847 he worked as a music teacher in Prague and studied piano and composition with Josef Proksch . Like his role model Richard Wagner , Smetana took part in the revolution of 1848/49 . At the same time he opened his own private music school in Prague in 1848 with the help of his friend Franz Liszt.

On August 29, 1849, he married his long-time lover Kateřina Otilia Kolářová (born March 5, 1827 in Klattau , † April 19, 1859 in Dresden ), with whom he had four daughters.

In 1856 Smetana left his homeland for political reasons to lead the Philharmonic Society in Gothenburg ( Sweden ) . Here he met the famous violinist Ferdinand Laub , with whom he organized joint concerts.

With the softening of Austrian absolutism , Smetana finally returned to Prague in 1861 and worked tirelessly for the Czech national movement . The new upswing led to the founding of the Hlahol Patriotic Choral Society in 1861 , which he directed from 1863 to 1865.

Smetana was the conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Concerts from 1865 to 1869 , from 1864 to 1865 music critic for the newspaper Národní listy , from 1863 to 1870 chairman of the music department of the Umělecká beseda association and from 1866 to 1874 as the successor to Karl Komzák's first conductor of the Czech interim theater České Prozatim Divadlo . In 1874 Smetana fell ill, became deaf and largely withdrew from the public. Smetana moved to the countryside in Jabkenice to live with his daughter Žofie and her husband Josef Schwarz, a forester . There he continued to work as a composer.

Bedřich Smetana with his friends in 1865 , painting by František Dvořák
Detail of the tombstone in the Vyšehrad cemetery

In the course of the creation of the Libuše Festival Opera , the cycle of symphonic poems My Fatherland (Má Vlast) was also created . First laid out as a four-part cycle, it was expanded in 1878/79 to include the pieces Tábor and Blaník . Between 1876 and 1878 Smetana created with the librettist Eliška Krásnohorská Tajemství (The Secret).

He suffered from loud noises in his ears . Day and night he heard B. the “shrill whistling of an A flat major sixth chord in the highest registers of the piccolo”, which hindered him greatly when composing. He kept asking his librettist not to write so many ensemble scenes, as composing such scenes cost him a lot of strength and concentration. Shortly before his death, Smetana, who had meanwhile been in severe psychological and physical condition, was taken to a psychiatric clinic, where he died on May 12, 1884. He was buried in the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague in graves 5-40.


After his marriage to Kateřina Kolářová, daughter Žofie, the first of two daughters with Kateřina, was born in May 1853. On a return trip from Gothenburg to Prague, Smetana's wife Kateřina died of tuberculosis on April 19, 1859 at the age of 32 in Dresden . In the summer of the same year he became engaged to Bettina Ferdinandová, a sister-in-law of his brother Karel, and married her in July 1860. In 1861 the daughter Zdeňka was born and in 1863 daughter Božena.

A grandson of Smetana was the table tennis player and functionary Zdeněk Heydušek .


Smetana Museum Complex on the Vltava River in Prague
Music Mile Vienna

Larger- than-life monuments to the composer were erected in the cities of Prague, Leitomischl , Olomouc , Pilsen and Neustadt an der Mettau . In many other cities as well as in Svitavy there are smaller statues depicting Smetana.

The city administration of Prague designed a museum for Bedřich Smetana in the immediate vicinity of Charles Bridge . There is a branch of this museum in Jabkenice .

The large concert hall in the Prague House of Representatives is called the Smetana Hall.

Every year on the anniversary of Smetana's death, the Prague Spring , an international art and music festival, begins .

In 1979 an asteroid was named after him ( (2047) Smetana ), in 1984 a crater on the planet Mercury ( Mercury crater Smetana ).

In 2005, commemorative coins for Smetana and Antonín Dvořák were issued in a special blister pack . This includes the current circulation coins of the Czech Republic and a commemorative coin made of Nordic gold .

On arrival at Václav Havel Airport in Prague , the Vltava River is played in greeting in the Czech Airlines machines while taxiing to the terminal .

The Smetana 's Litomyšl festival was named after Smetana .

Apparently, a 140-passenger excursion ship of the Rosenberger Lipno Line was named after the composer and is to be used in the Vltava reservoir on June 18, 2020 .



Smetana monument in Litomyšl

Orchestral works

  • Wallenstein's camp, Richard III. and Hakon Jarl, symphonic poems in the tradition of Franz Liszt from his time in Gothenburg.
  • The six-part cycle of symphonic poems My Fatherland (Vyšehrad, Vltava, Šárka, Z českých luhů a hájů, Tábor, Blaník) , the most famous work of which is Die Moldau
  • Triumph Symphony in E major, op. 6 (1853–1854). The premiere took place in 1855. Smetana used the Austrian imperial anthem in this symphony . The symphony is dedicated to Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi"). Smetana sent her a copy of the work, but never got an answer. 1st movement Allegro vivace, 2nd movement Largo maestoso, 3rd movement Scherzo: Allegro vivo, 4th movement Finale: Allegro non troppo ma energico.

Chamber music

  • String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, From My Life .
    The quartet was created in 1876 and premiered in 1879. The composer describes his life in the four movements. Noteworthy is v. a. the coda of the finale: the jubilant movement breaks off abruptly, followed by a very high e in the 1st violin - Smetana set the beginning of his hearing loss to music. The quartet then closes with resignation. In his work Composing Life (2015) , Nico Sauer artistically refers to this work by Smetana, in which composing has a biographical meaning.
  • String Quartet No. 2 in D minor.
    Composed in complete deafness in 1883, Smetana wanted to use it to compose a continuation of the E minor quartet. The work is characterized by its passionate disruption, which is also reflected in the formal design.
  • Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15,
    composed between September and November 1855 and performed publicly for the first time on December 3 of the same year in Prague. The piece also has strong biographical references. In the list of his compositions there is the following comment about the piano trio: "Memory of my first child Bedriska (Friederike), who delighted us with her extraordinary musical talent, but was torn from us by her relentless death at the age of 4½ years."

Piano music

Numerous piano compositions have survived, especially from earlier years, which prove Smetana's virtuosity.

  • Salon polkas (Louisa, Bettina, Jiřinková ...)
  • Concert studies, the most famous Am Seegestade
  • Poetic polkas
  • 2 series of Bohemian dances (pianistically demanding stylizations)
  • 6 preludes
  • Sonata in G minor
  • Overture in E minor
  • Rondo in C major

Smetana also composed for several pianos for 4, 8 and 16 hands.

Organ music

  • Six Preludes (1846)
  • Fugue in A major (1845)
  • Choral arrangement "God be gracious and merciful to us" (1845)


Web links

Commons : Bedřich Smetana  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Carolyn Abbate, Roger Parker: A History of the Opera. The last 400 years. September 2013. Chapter: Brought in from the cold. Beck, ISBN 3-406-65542-4 .
  2. Biography ( Memento from October 9, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ Peter Morscheck , Chris Burgmann : Classics Forever. AMA Verlag, Bruehl 2000, ISBN 978-3-932587-65-8 (German / English), p. 78.
  4. ^ Anton Neumayr: Music and Medicine. 2nd edition, 1995.
  5. Smetana, Bedrich: Tajemstvi in the Wiener Zeitung of May 3, 2012, accessed on January 28, 2013.
  6. a b Alfred v. Ehrmann:  Mishaps around Smetana. In:  Badener Zeitung , May 12, 1934, p. 1, bottom. (Online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / bzt
  7. Passenger ship is being transported through the Mühlviertel, June 16, 2020, accessed June 17, 2020.
  8. Complete set for a symphony orchestra of the piece Moldau from the Indiana University School of Music
  9. Composing Life (Nico Sauer). In: On the locked seat. July 21, 2015, accessed on February 6, 2021 (German).
  10. Source: Preliminary note on the sheet music of the Peters edition , edited by the Weitzmann Trio