2 March 1824 - 12 May 1884 (age 60)

Bedrich Smetana is recognised as 'The Father of Czech Music'. He was one of the pioneers of musical nationalism.





Portrait by Paul Helm ©



Born: 2 March 1824. Litomsyl, Bohemia, then part of Austria, now Czech Republic
Father: František Smetana, brewer, violinist
Mother: Barbora Lynková (3rd wife of František)
Siblings: 5 half sisters (from father's previous marriages)
9 siblings of which 7 survived childhood. He was the 3rd child and eldest son.
Wife 1: Katerina Kolarova in 1849. Died in 1859
Children: 4 daughters, 3 of whom died in infancy
Wife 2: 20 old girl, Bettina Ferdinandova
Children: Zdeňka, 2 daughters
Died: May 12, 1884, Prague
Cause of death: registered as senile dementia (probably caused by syphilis)
Grave: Vysehradsky Hrbitov, Prague, Czech Republic see findagrave


Period/style: Romantic / Czech nationalistic
Output: considerable
Influenced by: Berlioz, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner and folk music
Influenced: Dvorák; Janácek

* 8 operas, including The Bartered Bride,
* Orchestral music, including Má vlast (My Country), cycle of 6 symphonic poems (No.2 is "The Moldau", 1874-1879)
* Chamber music and keyboard works, choral music and songs

Má vlast (My Fatherland)
Rafael Kubelik conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra


Smetana's father taught him the violin and other local teachers taught him the piano. Bedrich gave his first public piano recital at age 6.
- age 20 appointed resident piano teacher to the family of Count Leopold Thun. This gave him the financial ability to pursue his musical studies.
- age 23 (1847) attempted to organise a concert tour which he abandoned after the first disappointing performance.
- age 24 set up a piano school in Prague
- Formed a friendship with Liszt who helped find a publisher but declined to assist financially.
- manned the barricades in the unsuccessful 1848 Prague Revolution
- married Katerina Kolarova, his childhood friend, who bore him 4 daughters, 3 of whom died between 1854 and 1856. This tragedy inspired his 1855 Piano Trio.
- age 32 Moved to Sweden where he had been offered a piano teaching post.
- appointed director of the Gothenburg Philharmonic
- popular for his conducting and piano playing
- age 35 (1859) Katerina's tubercolosis worsened and she died at Dresden during the journey back to Bohemia.
- age 36 (1860) Married Barbora (Bettina) Ferdinandiová, his brother Karel's sister-in-law.
She bore him two daughters.
- age 37 (1861) returned to Prague, following its being granted political independence from Austia
- age 39 his opera The Brandenburgers of Bohemia won a prize for the best opera on a Czech theme.
- age 42 Following the success of his next opera The Bartered Bride he was appointed director of the Prague Provisional Theatre
- age 50 He became totally deaf and had to resign from the theatre. He also suffered from tinnitus (a shrill constant whistle in his ears).
- age 52 He moved out of Prague with his family. He continued to compose despite his deafness and completed his best known work Má vlast ("My Fatherland") a cycle of 6 symphonic poems.
- age 59 His mental health deteriorated rapidly and eventually he had to be put into a mental asylum where he soon died.

Smetana's funeral was followed by a great crowd and he was buried as a national hero.


- ”By the grace of God and with His help, I shall one day be a Liszt in technique and a Mozart in composition”
diary, 23 January, 1845

“I am not ashamed to reply to you in my mother tongue, however imperfectly, and am glad to be able to show that my fatherland means more to me than anything else”
Smetana’s second letter written in Czech language, 11 March, 1860

“For the first time for ages, I can again hear the entire range of octaves in tune. Previously they were all jumbled up. I can still hear nothing with my right ear”
Complaining about his deafness in his diary, 8 October, 1874

(Thanks to www.quotesquotations.com/biography)

Louisa's Polka

Bartered Bride  - Overture   

And now something to make you laugh

Dance of the Comedians -Victor Borge

March to the Shakespeare Festival

Links - where to go for more information


LastFM  brief biography and list of works

Classical Music Guide Forum


Quotes and quotations

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