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!