1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Smetana, Friedrich

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SMETANA, FRIEDRICH (1824–1884), Bohemian composer and pianist, was born at Leitomischl in Bohemia on the 2nd of March 1824. He made such rapid progress in his studies under Ikavec, at Neuhaus, that at the age of six he appeared in public as pianist so successfully that his father's opposition to a musician's career was overcome. He then went to Proksch, at Prague, until he left for Leipzig to make the acquaintance of Schumann and Mendelssohn. Limited means prevented him from studying with the latter, and he returned to Prague, where he at once became Konzert-meister to the Emperor Ferdinand. In 1848 he married Katharina Kolar, pianist, and with her founded a music school at Prague. At the same time he met Liszt, who subsequently influenced him greatly, and with whom he afterwards stayed at Weimar. In 1856 Smetana accepted Alexander Dreyschock's suggestion to go as conductor of the Philharmonic Society at Gothenburg. There he remained five years, when, owing to his wife's ill-health, he returned to Prague after a successful concert tour. The death of his wife at Dresden on their return caused Smetana to change his mind, and he went back to Sweden. But the opening of the Interims Theater in 1866, and the offer of its conductorship, induced his return. In Sweden he had already written Hakon Jarl, Richard III., and Wallenstein's Lager, and had completed his opera Die Brandenburger in Bohmen (5th January 1866). Five months later it was followed by his best-known opera, Die verkaufte Braut, and in 1868 Dalibor was given. Between 1874 and 1882 he produced Zwei Witwen, Hubicka (Der Kuss), Tajewstvi (Das Geheimnis), Certova Stena, and Die Teufelsmauer, as well as the "grand prize" opera Libuse, written for the opening of the National Theatre at Prague, 11th June 1881. In Die Teufelsmauer were clear signs of decay in Smetana's powers, he having already in 1874 lost his sense of hearing. To celebrate his sixtieth birthday a fête was arranged by the combined Bohemian musical societies; but on that day Smetana lost his reason and was removed to a lunatic asylum, where he died on the 12th of May 1884. A great deal of his pianoforte music is interesting, the Stammbuchblätter, for example; while his series of symphonic poems, entitled Mein Vaterland (Vlast), and his beautiful string-quartet, Aus meinem Leben, have made the tour of the civilized world. He was an admirable pianist, and in many ways justified his countrymen's title of the “Czechisch Beethoven.”