Item #39365 Autograph letter signed "Bedř. Smetana" to his daughters. Bedřich SMETANA.
Autograph letter signed "Bedř. Smetana" to his daughters

Autograph letter signed "Bedř. Smetana" to his daughters

2-1/2 pp. of a bifolium. Large octavo. Dated Prague, 1 February 1875. In light purple ink. On paper with monogrammatic device in dark red to upper left. In Czech (with transliteration and translation).

A very personal and moving letter in which Smetana writes to his daughters regarding his intense frustration with his increasing deafness, his activities in Prague, financial concerns, etc.

"Your lovely letters make me very happy, since I can see from them that you are healthy and that you are also studying hard." He is sorry not to be able to come to Lamberg, but must stay to tend to his affairs with the "cooperative" and be available for frequent doctors' visits, recognizing that "it is going very slowly with the recovery."

He receives visits from pupils and friends including the family of Comtesse Thun, the Countess Lerchenfeld, the Princess Lobkowitz, and the young Prince Lobkoewitz (Berkovitzky) to give him "a little cheer," but laments the fact that they "are quite worried about their expenditures, for otherwise they would surely help your father reach a place which he wouldn't need to be worried about penury." His deafness prevents him from conversation with his visitors, so "they always write over several whole sheets" when visiting.

Smetana goes on to describe his daily activities in Prague, including mornings composing, writing letters, reading, and "doing a little finger exercise, but not much, so as not to damage my hearing," and afternoons wandering the streets or reading the newspaper in a café. "Then I am bored at home in the dark. I read a little, write a little, do a little 'piano tapping,' and pace around the room again until it is time to go to bed. In my dreams I am happiest, for I forget my illness, my awkward life."

He closes with "Tell grandpa and grandma that I kiss their hands, and that I kiss Mary heartily. I also kiss you heartily and dearly. Forever your loving father, Bedř. Smetana." With a postscript: "Be healthy, diligent, and good!"

Provenance
Dr. Armin Schram: The Schram Collection, Christie's, London, 3 July 2007, lot 308.

Slightly worn; creased at folds and overall.

Smetana was a "Czech composer, conductor, teacher, and music critic often described as the ‘father’ or ‘inventor’ of Czech national music. While his first language was German and his first nationalist compositions were based on Swedish narratives, Smetana asserted himself as composer of specifically Czech music from the 1860s, and his music posthumously became synonymous with a Czech national musical style. ... Smetana recorded the sound of ringing in his ears – the most obvious symptom of his syphilis – for the first time in July 1874." Marta Ottlová, Milan Pospíšil, and John Tyrrell, revised by Kelly St Pierre in Grove Music Online

"From the recollections of the poet Ladislav Quis (1846-1913) we know that Smetana was a sorry sight at this time. His ears were plugged with cotton wool and firmly bandaged, and though he was only fifty he appeared twenty years older. His figure had shrunk, his face was worn by pain, his eyes tired from worry, his hair now streaked with grey. It was little wonder people sympathized with him and wanted to help him. The first to do so was his former pupil, Countess Elizabeth Kounic (née Thun), who organized at her home a concert performed by members of the aristocracy and pupils of the deaf composer." Large: Smetana, p. 294.

An important letter offering significant insight into the composer's personal life and concerns in the early stages of his illness. Although Smetana continued to compose (three operas including The Kiss, The Secret, and The Devil's Wall; the E minor string quartet; works for piano; choral pieces, etc.), his condition was soon to deteriorate into pronounced depression, insomnia, hallucinations, and additional symptoms of both mental and physical decline. He died in 1884 in the Kateřinky Lunatic Asylum in Prague.

Item #39365

Price: $11,500.00  other currencies

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