Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bedřich Smetana was here.....

I love walking through historic cities. For centuries, even millenniums people have lived and worked, and bridges, churches, palaces and houses are left behind as memories of the generations that once were there. Often it is difficult to find people connected to the houses you pass when you travel. As a tourist I am therefore always happy to find plaques that tell a story one of its inhabitants.

Until I passed a house in Göteborg I had now idea that the famous Czech composer Bedřich Smetana once resided there, but now I know. He was an important part of the musical life of the city for 6 years and continued to keep close links to Sweden.

When he stayed there Göteborg was an important commercial centre, but was a backwater, culturally.
This is why Smetana was offered the post as conductor for the Symphonic orchestra in 1856.

As we walked along one of the canals that makes up the old defenses of the city, we passed a house built in gray bricks. There I found this plaque:

HAR BODDE
ÅREN 1857-1858
DEN TJECKISKE
TONSATTAREN
BEDRICH SMETANA
CESKY HUDEBNI
SKLADATEL
BYDLIL ZDE V LETECH
1857-1858





Bedřich Smetana was born in 1824 and is most famous for his symphonic work Má Vlast. He was also politically active and left Bohemia in 1856, for political reasons, and settled in Göteborg and stayed there until he returned in 1861.

He became an important figure in Göteborg's music life. He was conductor for Harmoniska Sälskapet and other choirs and orchestras in the city.

After six years his longing for his own country had grown strong and he decided to return to Prag. He suffered from syphilis, an illness that made him deaf, and gradually he also grew mentally ill. He died in 1884.

This gray building in Göteborg's city centre was suddenly not just any old house, but a famous name had been attached to it.

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