Scholars have long framed similarities between Bedřich Smetana's “Vyšehrad” (the first movement of Má vlast) and Zdeněk Fibich's symphonic poem Záboj, Slavoj, and Luděk as a threat to Smetana's originality. In his biography of the composer, for example, Brian Large moved to “exonerate” Smetana from charges of “plagiarism” by arguing that Smetana began “Vyšehrad” at least two years before Záboj's premiere in 1874; not six months later as Smetana's diary attests. Rather than regarding these works' similarities as a problem, this discussion embraces their close relationships as a starting point. Situating both symphonic poems and their reception within the discourses generated by a powerful organization called the “Umělecká beseda” (“Artistic Society,” or UB, in which both Smetana and Fibich participated) illuminates the larger intellectual and aesthetic space from which they emerged. Such a process of contextualization reveals how both composers' works constructed each other and uncovers Smetana not as a “lone genius”—a composer untainted by influence—but as a participant in a shared conversation. Ultimately, this examination opens up new understandings of Smetana and his “Vyšehrad” and invites scholars to reengage with the deliberate subjectivity of Czechness and historiography more broadly.
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