Lot #682
Bedrich Smetana

After premiering The Kiss, the composer is uneasy about a rural orchestra performing his opera: “Each individual musician prefers to listen to himself alone and does not know how to adapt to the whole”
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Description

After premiering The Kiss, the composer is uneasy about a rural orchestra performing his opera: “Each individual musician prefers to listen to himself alone and does not know how to adapt to the whole”

Distinguished Czech composer (1824–1884) best known for his colorful symphonic poem The Moldau and the opera The Bartered Bride. Rare ALS in Czech, signed “Bedr. Smetana,” one page both sides, lightly-lined, 5.5 x 8.5, December 8, 1876. Letter reads, in full (translated): “I am indebted to you for your gracious intentions in wishing to perform several numbers from my opera for the rural public. But to my regret, I must remark that at least for now it is not possible to carry out such a thing. The piano part of the opera no longer exists, I have not yet had time for it and if my opera is to be published, no individual numbers may be copied as no publisher would then accept such a publicized opera. And in regard to numbers with an orchestra, I must admit singing outside is much more lovely for me when only accompanied by a piano. Even the best rural orchestras have a great defect, that they are not accustomed to accompanying singing and each individual musician prefers to listen to himself alone and does not know how to adapt to the whole. I know this from experience. I am not merely against this should you decide as you wrote in Jicin—where they performed during a concert of the overture with orchestra. You may leave it to Mr. Capek to describe. But under such condition that they will not allow it to be copied or conducted anywhere else. As in time, as I hope to publish my orchestral compositions and before such time they may not be reproduced in print.” In fine condition, with some light soiling to the first page.

This letter most likely refers to one of Smetana's most famous and popular operas, The Kiss, which had opened one month earlier at the Prague Provisional Theatre—the most successful premiere of his career. The opera drew from Czech folk and pastoral themes and is regarded as one of his most beautifully cohesive pieces—an impressive feat, as it was the first opera composed after the complete loss of his hearing. The Kiss also marked the first collaboration between Smetana and Eliska Krasnohorska, the librettist for all but one of his future operas. His reluctance to compromise his ability to publish this work is understandable; his deafness forced him to resign as conductor at the Provisional Theatre, and the resulting financial hardship was exacerbated by escalating medical bills. Since The Kiss premiered with such acclaim, royalties from publication would certainly alleviate some of these difficulties. Ultimately, the score was published in 1880 by Urbanek of Prague. In addition to the association with one of his most popular works, Smetana's discussion of the abilities of inexperienced orchestras is of great interest. An amazingly desirable letter in both musical content and rarity—this being just the third we have offered. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Rare Manuscript, Document & Autograph
  • Dates: #411 - Ended July 17, 2013





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