Antonin Dvorak

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Born:

September 8, 1841 - Nelahozeves, nr Kralupy

Died:

May 1, 1904 – Prague

Dvorak Quick Facts:

  • Johannes Brahms once wrote a letter praising and exalting Dvorak’s music; they later became great friends.
  • After moving to America in 1892, Dvorak spent his summer vacation in the small town of Spillville, Iowa in 1893, because of it’s mainly Czech population.
  • Dvorak’s greatest musical success was achieved by the world premiere of his New World Symphony in Carnegie Hall on December 3, 1893.

    Dvorak's Family Background:

    Dvorak’s father, Frantisek was a butcher and an innkeeper. He played the zither for fun and entertainment but later played it professionally. His mother, Anna, came from Uhy. Antonin Dvorak was the oldest of eight children.

    Childhood Years:

    In 1847, Dvorak began taking voice and violin lessons from Joseph Spitz. Dvorak took to the violin quickly and soon began playing in church and village bands. In 1853, Dvorak’s parents sent him to Zlonice to continue his education in learning German as well as music. Joseph Toman and Antonin Leihmann continued to teach Dvorak violin, voice, organ, piano, and music theory.

    Teenage Years:

    In 1857, Dvorak moved to the Prague Organ School where he continued to study music theory, harmonization, modulation, improvisation, and counterpoint and fugue. During this time, Dvorak played the viola in the Cecilia Society. He played works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Wagner.

    While in Prague, Dvorak was able to attend concerts playing works by Liszt conducted by Liszt himself. Dvorak left the school in 1859. He was second in his class.

    Early Adult Years:

    In the later summer months of 1859, Dvorak was hired to play viola in a small band, which later became the building blocks of the Provisional Theater Orchestra.

    When the orchestra formed, Dvorak became the principal violinist. In 1865, Dvorak taught piano to the daughters of a goldsmith; one of whom later became his wife (Anna Cermakova). It wasn’t until 1871 when Dvorak left the theater. During these years, Dvorak was privately composing.

    Mid Adult Years:

    Because his early works were too demanding on the artists who performed them, Dvorak evaluated and revamped his work. He turned away from his heavy Germanic style to a more classic Slavonic, streamline form. Besides teaching piano, Dvorak applied to the Austrian State Stipendium as a mean for income. In 1877, Brahms, very much impressed by Dvorak’s works, was on the panel of judges who awarded him 400 guldens. A letter written by Brahms about Dvorak’s music brought Dvorak much fame.

    Late Adult Years:

    During the last 20 years of Dvorak’s life, his music and name became internationally known. Dvorak earned many honors, awards, and honorary doctorates. In 1892, Dvorak moved to America to work as the artistic director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York for $15,000 (nearly 25 times what he was earning in Prague). His first performance was given at Carnegie Hall (the premiere of Te Deum).

    Dvorak’s New World Symphony was written in America. On May 1, 1904, Dvorak died of illness.

    Selected Works by Dvorak:

    Symphony

    • Symphony No. 1, C minor - 1865
    • Symphony No. 2, B-flat Major - 1865
    • Symphony No. 3, E flat Major - 1873
    • Symphony No. 4, D minor - 1874
    • Symphony No. 5, F Major - 1875
    • Symphony No. 6, D Major - 1880
    • Symphony No. 7, D minor - 1885
    • Symphony No. 8, G Major - 1889
    • Symphony No. 9, New World Symphony, e minor - 1893

    Choral Works

    • Mass in D Major - 1887
    • Te Deum - 1892
    • Requiem - 1890