I was in elementary school when the United States celebrated its bicentennial in 1976. It was a fun time to be a kid. Historical luminaries like John & Abigail Adams, Crispus Attucks, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and George & Martha Washington were our heroes. We watched The Bicentennial Minute each evening on CBS television. We sported bicentennial t-shirts and belt buckles. We even wore puffy shirts accessorized with neck scarves for school pictures trying to look colonial. The US bicentennial celebration brought history to life for 1970s kids, and I loved it!
This year, 2024, marks the bicentenary of two composers we hear from time to time on WNED Classical, Bruckner and Smetana, both born in 1824.
Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer who lived from 1824 to 1896. He was an outstanding organist who specialized in writing massive symphonies for orchestra. His contemporaries misunderstood and maligned him, and his reputation still suffers from it today. Recently, scholars have asserted that Bruckner may have been a person with autism, something people knew little about in the 1800s. Austria is celebrating Bruckner this year with a concert series. We’ll celebrate on WNED Classical by sampling his symphonies and other works. Here’s an excerpt from his Symphony No. 4:
Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who lived from 1824 to 1884. He’s known as the father of Czech music. His opera, The Bartered Bride, and his symphonic cycle Má vlast (My Fatherland) are his most famous works. Like Bruckner, Smetana faced challenges. He grew up poor. The kids at school made fun of his shabby clothes. They also teased him about his last name, which means cream in Czech. We hear his Bartered Bride Overture and sections of Má vlast often, but this year we’ll dig deeper, sampling his piano, chamber, and vocal music. Czechia is launching a celebration of Smetana this year called Smetana 200 in honor of his profound contributions to music. Here’s a sample of his piano music:
Let’s be realistic. As much as we’d like to find Bruckner and Smetana belt buckles to wear around town this year, they’re probably all sold out by now. But never fear; we can still celebrate the Bruckner-Smetana bicentenary by listening to their music on WNED Classical. I think they’d like that better anyway.
Marty Wimmer is your Midday Host on WNED Classical. He’s been with WNED since 1995. Recently retired from a long career as a public school music teacher, Marty is thrilled that he still gets to talk about music every day. He lives in Buffalo and is grateful for the many good friends he has in our local classical music community. You can reach Marty at email@example.com