Bedřich Smetana

Bedřich Smetana

Myth, Music, and Propaganda

Kelly St. Pierre


University of Rochester Press



This book reveals Czech composer Bedřich Smetana as a dynamic figure whose mythology has been rewritten time and again to suit shifting political perspectives.
Interpretations of Czech composer Bedřich Smetana and his music have shifted as frequently as the political contexts in which they were written. This book examines not just Smetana, but also the scholar-politicians who have imagined and reimagined him and his works since the nineteenth century. During the 1870s, Smetana helped found a powerful nationalist organization called the Umelecká beseda ("Artistic Society," or UB), whose members produced the earliest scholarship on the composer as part of their calls for political action. Within the increasingly radicalized discourses of the twentieth century, individuals including future Minister of Culture and Education Zdenĕk Nejedlý attacked the UB for not being nationalistic enough, producing their own revisionist histories of Smetana and his works. Kelly St. Pierre investigates Smetana as both nationalist composer and national symbol, revealing the composer's legacy as a dynamic figure whose mythology has been rewritten time and time again to suit changing political perspectives.

Kelly St. Pierre is assistant professor of musicology at Wichita State University.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781782049364), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


12 line illustrations
178 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
Hardback, 9781580465106, March 2017
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS050000, MUS020000, HIS040000
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Related Titles

Table of Contents

Smetana Advocacy and Czech Nation-Building
Smetana, Czechness, and the New German School
Smetana, Czechness, and Wagner
Smetana as a Proven Genius
Writing the Smetana Myth: Historiography and Czechness


St. Pierre's book will need to be consulted by anyone interested in the subject. It is lucidly constructed and well written, and has been well served by Rochester Press [sic] in its editing of her prose . . . [and] is especially valuable in the lively details it gives of the Umelecká beseda and its members. SLAVONIC AND EAST EUROPEAN REVIEW

A sorely needed and welcome foray not only into scholarship on the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, but also into questions of composer biography and the role of propaganda in Central European nationalist movements...a valuable resource for scholars of European history and Czech music. EUROPEAN HISTORY QUARTERLY

Kelly St. Pierre's concentrated and highly researched new study . . . closely examines the complex and politically controversial genesis of [Czech composer Smetana's] music, and its huge eventual significance in establishing a strong and clear national identity for that small if fiercely patriotic country contained within the 19th-century Austro-Hungarian Empire. St. Pierre has done well to cut a path through the forests of obscurantism generated by these ever-changing political perspectives, leading to a clearer picture of Smetana and his actual achievements. MUSICAL TIMES

A significant work of scholarship, Kelly St. Pierre's Bedřich Smetana: Myth, Music, and Propaganda fills an obvious and important gap in the literature of musical politics in Prague from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the end of the First Republic. With an excellent and thorough consideration of both Czech and English sources, including the most recent publications, this book will be indispensable for scholars and enthusiasts of Czech music, as well as scholars, students, and devotees of late nineteenth-century European cultural and intellectual history. --Derek Katz, author of Janácek beyond the Borders

Also in Series