Born into a large family in the small town of Leitomischel, Berich Smetana showed exceptional musical talent as a child, preforming on the violin and piano at the age of 5 and writing his first compositions at 8. Despite his father`s opposition to musical training, he quickly gained a reputation as a pianist through his preformancs of the works of Frank Liszt. After moving to Prague in 1844, Smetana became music teacher to the family of the wealthy Count Thun but left after 4 years. With the help of Liszt, Smetana founded his own piano school .
In 1856 Smetana accepted a position as conductor of the Philharmonic Society of Goteborg, Sweden. While there he wrote his first important symphonic poems, including Wallenstein's Camp (1859) after Friedrich von Schiller's great dramatic trilogy. During this time, events were changing in Bohemia.The following years Smetana returned to Prague to become a leader in the new movement, the first substanial result of which was the establishment in 1862 of a theater where opera and drama could be presented in the Czech language.
Smetana`s first major operatic success, The Bartered Bride (1866), instantly raised him to the status of Bohemian`s leading composer and won for him international success as well as the position as first conductor of the Prague Theater. The opera, a humorous tale of peasant life, is full of dance sequences based on Bohemian folk rhythms. The overture, polka, and furiant are often heard in concert. His next opera Dalibor (1868), was more serious, with the hero conceived as a symbol of the Czech soul. Smetana`s symponic orchestration upst some critics, who accused him of imitating Richard Wanger, and throughout his life his serious operas were atacked bz many who preferred his lighter works. Today Dalibor is considered one of the greatest Czech operas, although is virtually unknown outside its own country.
Eventually Smetana developed a nervous disorder, continually hearing noises in his head and at time suffering memory lapses. In 1874 he was forced to resing from his conducting podition, and at the end of that year he became permanently deaf. From 1874 to 1879 he occupied himselfe with the composition of a cycle of six symphonic poems titled My Country, of which the best known are The Moldau (1874) and From Bohemia`s Meadows and Forests (1875). In 1876 he completed his moste important chamber work, the sring quartet From My Life. This composition is unique in the repertoire because of its autobiographical subject matter, reflected in the dance in the last movement, representing Smetana`s own physical disability. In the spring of 1884 he was commited to a mental institution, where he died a few months later.