Monthly Archives: July 2017

Bedřich Smetana, part two

When we left Bedřich last week it was the fall of 1843 and he was on his way to Prague to pursue a career in music.

While at school in Plzeň, he had reconnected with Kateřina Kolářová and her family.  Kateřina’s mother introduced him to the head of the Prague Music Institute, where Kateřina was studying.  By January of 1844, Bedřich was a pupil of Josef Proksch, the head of the music institute, and had a position as a music teacher for the family of Count Thun.

For three years he studied and taught.  In 1847, Bedřich decided to try to establish himself as a concert pianist.  He resigned from teaching the children of Count Thun, recommending Kateřina to take on the position.  And he left to tour Western Bohemia.  The tour was not a success and Bedřich cut it short and returned to Prague.  He taught private students and worked on his compositions.

In 1848, Bedřich contacted Liszt for the first time.  Bedřich asked Liszt to accept a dedication of Bedřich’s latest piano piece and to help him find a publisher.  Liszt accepted.  Bedřich had also asked for some financial assistance to start a school which Liszt did not do.  Bedřich was able to start his Piano Institue anyway and it gained popularity.  In 1849, the school was relocated to the home of Kateřina’s parents and Liszt made regular visits.

With some financial security and stability now established, Bedřich and Kateřina were able to get married in 1849.  As girls seem to be dominant in the Smetana family tree, Bedřich and Kateřina had four daughters between 1851 and 1855.

While his professional career was fairly stable, the next few years were difficult personally.  In 1854 his second oldest daughter died of tuberculosis.  1855 saw the death of his eldest daughter from scarlet fever. And while their fourth daughter was born shortly after their eldest daughter’s death, she too only survived briefly, dying in the summer of 1856.  At this point, Kateřina had also been diagnosed with tuberculosis.  All in all, a difficult several years.

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Bedřich Smetana, part one

Bedřich Smetana was born Friedrich Smetana in 1824.  His father was František Smetana and his mother, Barbora Lynková.  Barbora was František’s third wife.  Bedřich was František’s first son.  Bedřich had 5 older stepsisters and eventually had another 6 surviving siblings.

František was a brewer by trade and in 1823 became the brewer to Count Waldstein in Litomyšl.  Bedřich was introduced to music by his father.  František had a love of music and played in a string quartet.  Bedřich learned both the piano and the violin.

While František did speak Czech, at the time Bedřich was growing up and living in the area of Litomyšl, the primary language was German.  Bedřich attended school locally initially. After the family moved to a farm in the south-eastern region of Bohemia, there were no suitable schools near by and, at the age of 15, Bedřich was sent to Prague to attend the Academic Grammar School.  While Bedřich had wanted to go to Prague, he quickly found the school not to his liking.  He skipped classes in favour of music concerts and he played with a string quartet.

Initially František resisted Bedřich desire to pursue music as a career.  It was fine as a hobby but not as a profession.  Bedřich had been playing since the age of 6 and had been composing short pieces in his youth.  But František wanted Bedřich to finish his formal schooling.  Learning that his son was not attending classes, František got Bedřich out of Prague and back home.  Bedřich continued his formal schooling at the Premonstratensian School in Plzeň, where his older cousin was a teacher.  During this time he continued to play the piano at local social events and he continued to compose.  By the time his formal schooling was finished, his father agreed that he should pursue a career in music.  However, his father, now long retired, was unable to help him financially.  In the fall of 1843, Bedřich left for Prague once again to see what would happen.

And we will look at what happened in our blog post next week!

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