Famous Czech Composers

Famous Czech Composers

Music knows no borders! Do you know any of the great, world-famous Czech composers?

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People used to say that every Czech is a musician. That might no longer apply but, in the course of history, the Czech Republic has been the birthplace of several musical geniuses who became famous all over the world. Come take a walk with us through the life of several famous Czech classical music composers. Not only we will introduce them to you, but we will also show you where in the Czech Republic you can find their footprints.

Josef Mysliveček (1737-1781)

Josef Mysliveček was a Czech composer in the Late Baroque and Classicism. He spent the second half of his life in Italy, where he was famous for his operas. In addition to twenty-six operas, his creative work includes numerous oratories and cantatas, symphonies and chamber music pieces. He was born in Prague to a miller’s family, most likely in the Sova mills, or today’s Kampa Museum. When he completed his studies in Prague, he set off to Italy, which was the centre of opera at that time. He spent the second half of his life and gained experience there. In the second half of the 18th century, he was considered one of the most talented composers. Even his contemporary W. A. Mozart, who is more famous today, greatly admired Mysliveček’s music. Today, you can also find his work under the pseudonym of Il divino boemo – the Divine Bohemian. His most famous pieces include the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, or any of his overtures.

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)

The future composer was born in the east Bohemian town of Litomyšl. He was almost born at the local chateau where his father worked as the master brewer, and he and his wife and daughters lived in a flat that belonged to the chateau. Today, you can visit the exposition commemorating the composer’s childhood. Little Bedřich had a musical talent that his parents supported. Before he went to school, he could already play the violin, and he started composing when he was eight years old. He set off to study music in Prague, where he later opened a music school. During his life, he travelled around Europe, taught music, performed as a piano virtuoso and composed. But in the end, he settled in Prague and spent most of his life there. He was deaf for the last ten years of his life, but that did not prevent him from composing music and operas. Even though his work was not always a success, Bedřich Smetana became the leading representative of Czech national music and Czech culture during his life. His most famous works, performed on stages all over the world, include the Bartered Bride opera and the My Country symphony. In Prague, you can visit the Bedřich Smetana Museum near Charles Bridge. His hometown of Litomyšl organises the world-famous annual festival of classical music, Smetana’s Litomyšl.

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Stabat Mater, Symphony No. 9, the Rusalka opera, or the Slavonic Dances. Those are the most famous pieces by genius composer Antonín Dvořák. He is one of the Czech composers who are still recognised all over the world. His operas and other pieces are performed on stages from New York to Tokyo. Antonín Dvořák was born in Nelahozeves north of Prague. Today, you can visit the family home where he spent his childhood. The house is now the Antonín Dvořák Memorial. It is arranged to let visitors travel back in time to the mid-19th century and imagine how this world-famous composer spent his childhood and youth. Antonín’s musical career later expanded to an international level, especially after his successful tour of Great Britain and the USA at the end of the 19th century. His name and work lives on at the Dvořák’s Prague, Dvořák’s Olomouc and Dvořák’s Turnov and Sychrov music festivals.

Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)

He is another Czech composer recognised all over the world. Even though he is from the modern music generation, his style is very distinct and original. He is primarily appreciated among artists for his unusual melodics, based in the folk music of his youth. The world mostly knows his operas such as Její pastorkyňa. His other works including Glagolitic Mass, Lachian Dances and Sinfonietta received great recognition and are still played to this day. Janáček was born in the village of Hukvaldy near Ostrava, where you can visit his family home, which is now the Leoš Janáček Memorial. Janáček also has his own music festivals – the Leoš Janáček International Music Festival in Ostrava and Janáček Brno.

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)

Bohuslav Martinů was born in the east Bohemian town of Polička. He studied violin and organ at the Prague conservatory. Those two instruments then blended into his work throughout his life. He spent his youth in Paris, from where he moved to the USA. He then moved between the USA and Europe, where he most frequently stayed in France, Switzerland or Italy. He taught at music academies in all those countries and composed music, mostly operas, symphonies and ballets. Some of his most famous pieces include the Opening of the Wells cantata or the Field Mass. If you visit Polička, remember to visit the Bohuslav Martinů Centre, where you can go on a tour of his room in the church tower. His father used to work as a tower watchman. He took care of the tower clock and chimed the church bell.