Antonín Dvořák

1841 - 1904

Works in the repertoire



Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born on September 8, 1841 in Nelahozeves, 30 kilometers north of Prague, on the territory of the Austrian Empire.

His parents realized early on that their son had musical abilities and sent him away from school to an uncle in Zlonice in 1853, where he learned German, the official language of the Austrian imperial administration, and improved the musical culture he had acquired with the village orchestra.

He continued his studies in Česká Kamenice and was accepted in 1857 to the Prague organ school, where he remained until 1859. After graduating and winning a second prize, he joined Karel Komzák's Prager Kapelle, a variety orchestra, where he played the viola part.

His experience as an orchestral musician allows him to discover a vast classical and contemporary repertoire from the inside. He played under the baton of Bedřich Smetana, Richard Wagner, Mili Balakirev... and found time to compose ambitious works, including two first symphonies in 1865. Dvořák resigned from the orchestra in 1871 to devote himself to composition. He lived on private lessons, before obtaining a position as organist at St. Adalbert's Church (1874). 

While he obtained his first local successes (cantata Hymnus in 1873 under the direction of his friend Karel Bendl), a Viennese jury recognized the quality of his compositions and granted him a scholarship, which was renewed for five consecutive years. This allowed him to make contact with Johannes Brahms, who became his friend and introduced him to his publisher Fritz Simrock.

Famous throughout the musical world, he was appointed director of the National Conservatory in New York from 1892 to 1895. He held a composition class there. His first work composed in the United States was the 9th symphony, known as "The New World Symphony". It was a resounding success and has never been denied since its first performance. A just recognition which however masks the beauty and originality of the other mature symphonies. His interest in black music raised a great deal of controversy, the echoes of which could be heard on the Old Continent.

Back in Bohemia, where he found his sweet country life, he composed several symphonic poems. The end of his life was mainly devoted to the composition of operas, the most famous of which was Rusalka, created in 1901. During this period he also directed the Prague Conservatory.

Antonín Dvořák is buried in the historic Vyšehrad Cemetery, on a hill overlooking the city of Prague (the same cemetery as Bedřich Smetana).

His music is colorful and rhythmic, inspired both by the European scholarly heritage and by the influence of Czech and American folklore(negro spirituals or popular songs). Dvořák is one of the rare examples of a Romantic composer who successfully tackled all genres, with the sole exception of ballet. Although his music struggled to gain acceptance in France, Dvořák was considered a figure of international stature during his lifetime. In 1904, a few weeks before his death, emissaries from the Paris City Council made a trip to Bohemia to present him with a gold medal awarded by the city council.

Source :ín_Dvořák