Bedřich Smetana

Last updated: November 23, 2022

Litomyšl, Czech Republic | 1824-1884

Bedřich Smetana was certainly one of the underdogs. When he was very young, he was regularly bullied for his upbringing in the rural countryside and his lack of formal education. But, little did he know, his music would later become emblematic of Czech nationalism and independence. Born to a working-class family, Smetana grew up speaking German. His trouble with the Czech language was another reason his classmates would mock him. But, Smetana stayed the course and devoted himself to the study of the language until he was in his forties. He practiced both speaking and writing the Czech language every day.

Smetana’s decision to go against the grain led to the criticism of his music throughout his entire lifetime. But, this did not stop him. Even after experiencing hearing loss, he wrote nine major operas, an autobiographical string quartet, and a number of instrumental works. Unfortunately, it was not until after Smetana died that his music was recognized as a national treasure. His music was both cultured and representative of pride and independence. It was the “uneducated country boy’s” bohemian writing style that propelled his creations into the fabric of the country’s identity. Today, he is often referred to as the “Father of Czech Music.”

Source: Great Canadian Orchestra Field Trip, Episode 2 Learner's Companion