AskDefine | Define Smetana

Dictionary Definition

Smetana n : Czech composer (1824-1884) [syn: Bedrich Smetana]

Extensive Definition

"Smetana" redirects here. For the soured cream, see smetana (dairy product).
Bedřich Smetana (pronounced ; 2 March 1824 - 12 May 1884) was a Czech composer. He is best known for his symphonic poem Vltava (better known as The Moldau from the German), the second in a cycle of six which he entitled Má vlast ("My Country"), and for his opera The Bartered Bride.


Smetana was the son of a brewer in Litomyšl in Bohemia, then part of the Austrian Empire. He studied piano and violin from an early age, and played in an amateur string quartet with other members of his family. Smetana attended a high school in Pilsen from 1840-1843. He studied music in Prague, despite initial resistance from his father. He secured a post as music master to a noble family, and in 1848 received funds from Franz Liszt to establish his own music school.
September 1855 marked the death of his second child, his beloved four-year-old daughter Bedřiska. When his third child died nine months later, he committed himself to composition, producing the Piano Trio in G minor. This piece is full of sadness and despair, making use of phrases that are cut short, possibly in resemblance to his daughter's own life.
In 1856, Smetana moved to Gothenburg, Sweden, where he taught, conducted and gave chamber music recitals. In 1863, back in Prague, he opened a new school of music dedicated to promoting specifically Czech music. By 1874 he had become deaf from Osteomyelitis, but he continued to compose; Má vlast was written after his deafness had developed. Smetana also suffered from tinnitus, which caused him to hear a continuous, maddening high note which he described as the "shrill whistle of a first inversion chord of A-flat in the highest register of the piccolo."
From 1875 he lived in small village of Jabkenice.
His string quartet in E minor, Z mého života (From My Life, composed in 1876), the first of only two quartets, is an autobiographical work. Each movement tells a different story about Smetana's life. The first movement is expressive, demonstrative of Smetana's youthful love of art and his search for something undefinable. The second movement, carefree and somewhat raucous, takes the listener back to the days of Smetana's youth. The third movement is reminiscent of the happiness Smetana felt when in love with the girl who later became his wife. The final movement begins with Smetana's joy over the recognition which was given to the national music of Bohemia. However, as the movement progresses, the music is punctuated by a piercing high E in the first violin which, Smetana explained, represents the devastating effects of his tinnitus. He may also be hinting at this personal misfortune with the piccolo scoring in Má vlast.
Smetana was the first composer to write music that was specifically Czech in character. Many of his operas are based on Czech themes and myths, the best known being the comedy The Bartered Bride (1866). He used many Czech dance rhythms and his melodies sometimes resemble folk songs. Smetana believed that in music was the life of Czechs. He believed that music should be very patriotic. However Smetana clashed with a former friend of his, Frantisek Pivoda, who believed that "art knows no boundaries." Pivoda wanted to see fair interchange of artistic ideas between countries.
In 1882 Smetana suffered further effects of his progressive neurological effects illness. After he suffered a stroke-like seizure, doctors forbade him to compose in the fear that the increased mental activity of composition would result in further seizures. However, Smetana rebelled against these orders and composed his final, incomplete, opera, Viola. In 1884 he was taken to the Prague Lunatic Asylum, where he died the following year. He is interred in the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague.
It was belived that Smetana suffered from syphilis, but later studies of doctor Jiří Ramba, who studied Smetana's skull, revealed that he suffered from osteomyelitis.
He was a great influence on Antonín Dvořák, who similarly used Czech themes in his works. His work influenced many Czech composers who came after him, and continues to inspire musicians today.



  • Braniboři v Čechách, "Brandenburgers in Bohemia" - Interim Theatre, Prague, 1866.
  • Prodaná nevěsta, "The Bartered Bride" - Interim Theatre, Prague, 1866 (original version in 2 act).
  • Prodaná nevěsta, "The Bartered Bride" - Interim Theatre, Prague, 1870 (final revision in 3 act).
  • Dalibor - Czech Theater, Prague, 1868.
  • Libuše - National Theatre, Prague, 1881.
  • Dvě vdovy, "The Two Widows" - Czech Theater, Prague, 1874.
  • Hubička, "The Kiss" - Czech Theater, Prague, 1876.
  • Tajemství, "The Secret" - Premiere in 1878.
  • Čertova stěna, "The Devil's Wall" - Premiere in 1882.
  • Viola – Not completed (1872–1884).

Chamber music

  • String Quartet No. 1 in E minor
  • String Quartet No. 2 D minor
  • From my Homeland for piano and violin
  • Piano Trio in G flat major, Op. 15
  • Numerous violin and piano duos
  • Solo piano works; polkas, waltzes, etudes, preludes, sketches, impromtus, Czech dances

Orchestral music

  • Má vlast ("My Country") including "the Moldau"
  • 'Triumphal' or 'Festive' Symphony in E major (1849)
  • Richard III, symphonic poem
  • Wallenstein's Camp, symphonic poem
  • Håkon Jarl, symphonic poem
  • Prague Carnival, symphonic poem
  • Grand Overture in D major
  • March for Shakespeare Festival (Pochod k slavnosti Shakespearom)
  • Various polkas and other light pieces

Other works

  • Choir works
  • Songs



External links


Smetana in Bosnian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Breton: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Bulgarian: Бедржих Сметана
Smetana in Catalan: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Czech: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Welsh: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Danish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in German: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Estonian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Modern Greek (1453-): Μπέντριχ Σμέτανα
Smetana in Spanish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Esperanto: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in French: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Korean: 베드르지흐 스메타나
Smetana in Croatian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Indonesian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Icelandic: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Italian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Hebrew: בדז'יך סמטנה
Smetana in Swahili (macrolanguage): Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Latin: Fridericus Smetana
Smetana in Luxembourgish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Hungarian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Dutch: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Japanese: ベドルジハ・スメタナ
Smetana in Norwegian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Polish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Portuguese: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Quechua: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Russian: Сметана, Бедржих
Smetana in Simple English: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Slovak: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Slovenian: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Serbian: Беджих Сметана
Smetana in Serbo-Croatian: Bedrich Smetana
Smetana in Finnish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Swedish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Vietnamese: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Turkish: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Ukrainian: Сметана Бедржих
Smetana in Volapük: Bedřich Smetana
Smetana in Chinese: 贝多伊齐·斯美塔那
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