As important as composers Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu were, they owed much of their style to the great Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. He performed in his first string quartet at the age of five, and wrote his first symphony at eight, displaying a deep talent that was only to grow over the years. The humorous Opera The Bartered Bride was perhaps his most important composition, combining folksy dances and melodies with music rich with nationalist tendencies. This approach became a hallmark of many Romantic composers -- exploring different harmonies while reaching back to their ancestral roots to create something altogether new. Unfortunately, as if summing up the fate of many Romantic composers, Smetana went deaf from a serious syphilis infection and finished the remainder of his life in an insane asylum.