(b Nelahozeves, 8 Sept 1841; d Prague, 1 May 1904). Czech composer. He studied with Antonín Liehmann and at the Prague Organ School (1857-9). A capable viola player, he joined the band that became the nucleus of the new Provisional Theatre orchestra, conducted from 1866 by Smetana. Private teaching and mainly composing occupied him from 1873. He won the Austrian State Stipendium three times (1874, 1876-7), gaining the attention of Brahms, who secured the publisher Simrock for some of his works in 1878. Foreign performances multiplied, notably of the Slavonic Dances, the Sixth Symphony and the Stabat mater, and with them further commissions. Particularly well received in England, Dvořák wrote The Spectre's Bride (1884) and the Requiem Mass (1890) for Birmingham, the Seventh Symphony for the Philharmonic Society (1885) and St Ludmilla for Leeds (1886), besides receiving an honorary doctorate from Cambridge. He visited Russia in 1890, continued to launch new works in Prague and London and began teaching at the Prague Conservatory in 1891 (where Joseph Suk was among his most gifted pupils). Before leaving for the USA he toured Bohemia playing the new Dumky Trio. As director of the National Conservatory in New York (1892-5) he taught composition, meanwhile producing the well-known Ninth Symphony (‘From the New World’), the String Quartet in F, the String Quintet in E♭ and the Cello Concerto. Financial strain and family ties took him back to Prague, where he began to write symphonic poems and finally had his efforts at dramatic music rewarded with the success of the fairytale opera Rusalka (1901). The recipient of honours and awards from all sides, he remained a modest man of simple tastes, loyal to his Czech nationality.
In matters of style Dvořák was neither conservative nor radical. His works display the influences of folk music, mainly Czech (furiant and dumky dance traits, polka rhythms, immediate repetition of an initial bar) but also ones that might equally he seen as American (pentatonic themes, flattened 7ths); Classical composers whom he admired, including Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert; Wagner, whose harmony and use of leitmotifs attracted him; and his close friend Brahms (notably his piano writing and mastery of symphonic form). Despite his fascination with opera, he lacked a natural instinct for drama; for all their admirable wit and lyricism, his last five stage works rank lower than his finest instrumental music. Here his predilection for classical procedures reached its highest level of achievement, notably in the epic Seventh Symphony, the most closely argued of his orchestral works, and the Cello Concerto, the crowning item in that instrument's repertory, with its characteristic richness and eloquence, as well as in the popular and appealing Ninth Symphony and the colourful Slavonic Dances and Slavonic Rhapsodies. Among his chamber works, landmarks are the String Sextet in A op.48, a work in his national style which attracted particular attention abroad; the F minor Piano Trio op.65, one of the climaxes of the more serious, classically ‘Brahmsian’ side of his output - unlike the E minor op.90, a highly original series of dumka movements alternately brooding and spirited; the exuberant op.81 Piano Quintet; and several of the string quartets, notably the popular ‘American’ op.96, with its pentatonic leanings, and the two late works, the deeply felt op.106 in G and the warm and satisfying op.105 in A♭.works:
Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904), one of the greatest Czech composers, is most noted for his attractive and apparently effortless melodic gifts and the unfailing brilliance of his orchestration.
Antonin Dvořák was a nationalistic musician, basing his style on melodic and rhythmic patterns found in the folk music of his own country. At the same time he was not excessively concerned with program music, and he worked most successfully in instrumental forms utilizing traditional classical structures, such as symphonies and chamber works. Even those compositions which contain programmatic titles tend toward a general atmosphere rather than a musical structure that follows a preconceived literary outline.
Born on Sept. 8, 1841, in a small town near Prague into a moderately poor worker's family, Dvořák showed considerable interest in music as a child. When he was 16 he moved to Prague to continue his education, studying at the Prague Organ School from 1857 to 1859. He received not only a thorough musical training that introduced him to the works of the great masters of the past, but also one that exposed him to the more "advanced" composers like Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner.
In 1861 Dvořák joined the orchestra of the National Theater in Prague as a violist, where he remained for 10 years, performing for a while under the leadership of Bedřich Smetana. During this time Dvořák wrote numerous compositions, but not until 1873, with a performance of his grand patriotic work Hymnus for chorus and orchestra, did he achieve some renown. His compositions attracted the attention of Johannes Brahms, who prevailed upon his publisher to print some of Dvořák's works. The two composers became close friends.
Always composing an apparently effortless output of music, including the popular Slavonic Dances (1878), Dvořák soon became a professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory. In 1884 he made the first of a series of trips to London to conduct his own music. There he earned a commission to compose a choral work, The Spectre's Bride. He received an honorary doctorate degree from Cambridge University in 1891, the same year he composed his popular Carnival overture.
After successful tours of Russia and Germany, Dvořák accepted an invitation in 1892 to became the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. While in the United States he wrote what is probably his most famous work, the Symphony in E Minor, From the New World (1893). There has always been some confusion as to the extent to which Dvořák either imitated or directly borrowed melodic material from American folk music. All the music is original, however, and despite the fact that the theme of the second movement has been made into the song "Goin' Home," it is not an African American spiritual but a melodic invention by Dvořák. Perhaps the greatest problem presented by the New World Symphony is that it tends to blind audiences to the merits of some of his other symphonies. One in G major (1889) and another in D minor (1885) are certainly its equal in musical quality. In 1893 he also wrote his American String Quartet, the best-known of his 13 quartets, and a charming sonatina for violin and piano, a masterpiece in miniature.
In 1895 Dvořák returned to the Prague Conservatory, completing his cello concerto, probably the most outstanding concerto ever written for that instrument, and a perennial concert favorite. From this point on he concentrated on symphonic poems and operas. Rusalka, the ninth of his 10 operas, completed in 1900, was his last major work. Very popular in Czechoslovakia although rarely performed outside the country, Rusalka is a stunning lyric fantasy, an evocative retelling of the familiar story of the water nymph who fell in love with an all-too-human prince. In 1901 Dvořák became the director of the Prague Conservatory. He died on May 1, 1904.
Two major studies of Dvořák are John Clapham, Antonin Dvořák: Musician and Craftsman (1966), which deals mainly with the music, and Gervase Hughes, Dvořák: His Life and Music (1967), which treats the biographical data and the works in chronological order. An earlier but still useful work is Alec Robertson, Dvořák (1945). Good background studies are Gerald Abraham, A Hundred Years of Music (1938; 3d ed. 1964); Rosa Newmarch, The Music of Czechoslovakia (1942); and Alfred Einstein, Music in the Romantic Era (1947).
Butterworth, Neil, Dvořák, London; New York: Omnibus Press, 1984, 1980.
Butterworth, Neil, Dvořák: his life and times, Speldhurst Eng.: Midas Books, 1980.
Clapham, John, Dvořák, New York: Norton, 1979.
Dvořák, Antonín (b Nehalozeves, 8 Sept. 1841, d Prague, 1 May 1904). Czech composer. He wrote no ballet scores but several of his compositions have been used for dance, including Symphonic Variations (chor. Hynd, London Festival Ballet, 1970) and several pieces for Tudor's The Leaves are Fading (American Ballet Theatre, 1975).
Dvořák, Antonin (1841–1904), Czech composer. His music represents a meeting of the Viennese classical tradition with a style suffused with the landscape, speech patterns, and folk traditions of what was to become Czechoslovakia. Renowned for his symphonic and chamber works, Dvořák's fairy‐tale inspired compositions include the operas The Devil and Kate (1898–9) and Rusalka (1900). The distinctively Czechoslovakian component of his music is also sharply evident in a set of four symphonic poems, referred to by the composer as ‘orchestral ballads’: The Water Goblin, The Noon Witch, The Golden Spinning Wheel, and The Wild Dove (all 1896). Each is based on a folk ballad from a collection entitled A Bouquet of Folk Tales, by the Czech poet and folklore specialist Karel Jaromír Erben. Dvořák's music broadly follows the outline of each story. As one critic wrote at the time, ‘the orchestra recites Erben's poems’; indeed, certain of the instrumental lines are based on the rhythmic patterns of the verse.
The Water Goblin, composed as a rondo with seven scenes, tells of the marriage of a young girl and an evil goblin, identified by themes on the cellos and oboe respectively. Becoming homesick, the girl is granted permission to visit her mother, with the proviso that she leaves her child with its father. In the evening the goblin calls at the girl's mother's home. When the mother refuses to let her daughter go, a storm rises, and a thumping sound at the door proves to be the headless body of the child.
The Noon Witch begins quietly with a child playing while his mother prepares a meal. Angry with her son, the mother threatens him with mention of a witch who is thought to stalk during the hour before midday. The witch, a ghostly old woman, enters and demands the child, to the sound of muted strings, bass clarinet, and bassoon. After a struggle the mother collapses, as the midday bell rings. Returning home for his lunch, the father finds his wife, whom he revives; the child is dead.
The Golden Spinning Wheel is a complicated fairy tale to express in musical form. The only one of the four to have a happy ending, it involves a king and a young girl who has her hands and feet cut off and her eyes put out by her stepmother, so that the king will marry the stepmother's own daughter. The heroine is finally restored physically and reunited with the king, through the intervention of an old man, some magic water, and the eponymous spinning wheel.
Opening with a funeral march, The Wild Dove concerns the too hasty remarriage of a widow who, it transpires, poisoned her first husband. Tormented by the mournful cooing of a dove over the husband's grave—evoked by Dvořák using a combination of flutes, oboe, and harp—the woman drowns herself.
— Stephen Benson
From our Archives: Today's Highlights, September 8, 2006
See biographical studies by G. Hughes (1967), J. Clapham (1966), V. Fischl, ed. (1943, repr. 1970), and M. B. Beckerman (2002).
|For The Record...|
|Born September 8, 1841, in Nelahozeves, Bohemia (now Czech Republic); died May 1, 1904, in Prague; son of Frantisek (a butcher and innkeeper) and Anna Zdenek Dvorak; married Anna Cermakova, November, 1873; children: Otakar, Otilie Suk, Aloisie, Anna, Antonin, Magda. Education: Prague Organ School, 1857-59.|
Violinist and viola player in National Opera Orchestra of Prague, 1862-71; wrote first symphony, 1865; private music teacher in Prague, 1861-1878; organist at St. Adalbert’s, Prague, 1874; professor of composition, Prague Conservatory, 1891, and director, 1901-04; National Conservatory of Music, New York City, director, 1892-95.
Awards: Prizewinner in Austrian State Stipendium competition, 1874, 1876, and 1877; Order of the Iron Crown, Austro-Hungarian empire, 1889; elected member of Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1890; honorary doctorates from Prague University, Cambridge University, 1891; first musician to be named to the Austrian House of Lords, 1901.
Antonín Leopold Dvořák (// DVOR-zhahk or // di-VOR-zhak; Czech: [ˈantoɲiːn ˈlɛopolt ˈdvor̝aːk] ( listen); September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904) was a Czech composer. Following the nationalist example of Bedřich Smetana, Dvořák frequently employed features of the folk musics of Moravia and his native Bohemia (then parts of the Austrian Empire and now constituting the Czech Republic). Dvořák's own style has been described as 'the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them'.
Born in Nelahozeves, Dvořák displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from an organ school in Prague, he began writing his first composition at the age of 20. In the 1860s, he played as a violist in the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra and taught piano lessons. In 1873, he married Anna Čermáková, and left the orchestra to pursue another career as a church organist. He wrote several compositions during this period. Dvořák's music attracted the interest of Johannes Brahms, who assisted his career; he was also supported by the critic Eduard Hanslick.
After the premiere of his cantata Stabat Mater (1880), Dvořák visited the United Kingdom and became popular there; his Seventh Symphony was written for London. After a brief conducting stint in Russia in 1890, Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory in 1891. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City, where he also composed. However, a salary dispute, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness made him decide to return to Bohemia. From 1895 until his death, he composed mainly operatic and chamber music. At his death, he left several unfinished works.
Among Dvořák's best known works are his New World Symphony, the "American" String Quartet, the opera Rusalka and his Cello Concerto in B minor. Among his smaller works, the seventh Humoresque and the song 'Songs my mother taught me' are also widely performed and recorded. He composed operas, choral music, a wide variety of chamber music, concerti and many other orchestral and vocal and instrumental pieces. He has been described as 'arguably the most versatile...composer of his time'.
Dvořák was born in Nelahozeves, near Prague (then part of Bohemia in the Austrian Empire, now Czech Republic), the eldest son of František Dvořák (1814–1894) and his wife Anna, née Zdeňková (1820–1882). František was an innkeeper, professional player of the zither, and a butcher. Anna was the daughter of Josef Zdeněk, the bailiff of Prince Lobkowitz. Anna and František married on November 17, 1840. Dvořák was the first of fourteen children, eight of whom survived infancy. Dvořák was baptized as a Roman Catholic in the church of St. Andrew in the village. Dvořák's years in Nelahozeves nurtured the strong Christian faith and love for his Bohemian heritage that so strongly influenced his music. In 1847, Dvořák entered primary school and learned to play violin from his teacher Joseph Spitz. František was pleased with his son's gifts. At the age of 13, through the influence of his father, Dvořák was sent to Zlonice to live with his uncle Antonín Zdenĕk, working as an apprentice butcher, studying the German language, and eventually graduating to become a journeyman on November 1, 1856.
Dvořák took organ, piano and violin lessons from his German language teacher Anton Liehmann. Liehmann also taught the young boy music theory and was introduced to the composers of the time, for whom Dvořák gave much regard despite Liehmann's violent temper. Dvořák took further organ and music theory lessons with Franz Hanke at Česká Kamenice, who encouraged his musical talents even further and was more sympathetic. At the age of 16, through the urging of Liehmann and Zdenĕk, Dvořák was allowed by František to become a musician, on the condition that the young boy must build a career as an organist. After leaving for Prague in September 1857, Dvořàk entered the city's Organ School, studying organ with Josef Foerster, singing with Josef Zvonař and theory with František Blažek. He also took an additional language course to improve his German and worked as an "extra" in numerous bands and orchestras as a violist, including the orchestra of the St. Cecilia Society. Dvořák graduated from the Organ School in 1859. After unsuccessfully applying as an organist at St. Henry's Church, he decided to support himself financially.
During this time, Dvořák was a full-time musician. In 1858, he joined Karel Komzák's orchestra, with whom he performed in Prague's restaurants and at balls. The high professional level of the ensemble attracted the attention of Jan Nepomuk Maýr, who engaged the whole orchestra in the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra. Dvořák played viola in the orchestra since 1862. In July 1863, Dvořák played in a program devoted to the German composer Richard Wagner, who conducted the orchestra. At the time, Dvořák began composing his first two string quartets. In 1864, Dvořák agreed to share a rent of a flat located in Prague's Žižkov district with five other people, which also included violinist Mořic Anger and Karel Čech, who later became a singer. In 1866, Maýr was replaced as chief conductor by Bedřich Smetana. He was making about $7.50 a month. The constant need to supplement his income pushed him to give piano lessons. It was through these piano lessons that he met his wife. He originally fell in love with his pupil and colleague from the Provisional Theater, Josefína Čermáková, for whom he apparently composed the song cycle "Cypress Trees". However, she never returned his love and ended up marrying another man. In 1873 Dvořák married Josefina's younger sister, Anna Čermáková (1854–1931). They had nine children together, three of whom died in infancy.
Dvořák's composing career is first documented in the String Quintet in A Minor (1861) and in his First String Quartet (1862). In the early 1860s, he also made his first symphonic attempts, however, he self-critically burned some of those compositions. His first composing attempts passed without critical reception or public performances. In 1870, he composed his first opera, Alfred over the course of five months from May to October, but it was quickly forgotten.
The first press mention of Antonín Dvořák appeared in the Hudební listy journal in June 1871, and the first publicly performed composition was the song Vzpomínání (October 1871, musical evenings of L. Procházka). The performance of his cantata Hymnus in 1873 (conducted by his friend and supporter Karel Bendl) brought him first success, however, the opera King and Charcoal Burner was returned to Dvořák from Provisional Theatre, saying it was unperformable. Dvořák later reworked it. At that time, he also excluded more than a half of his compositions from his oeuvre.
On leaving the National Theater Orchestra after his marriage, Dvořák secured the job of organist at St. Adalbert's Church in Prague under Josef Förster, the father of the composer Josef Bohuslav Foerster. This provided him with financial security, higher social status, and enough free time to focus on composing. Dvořák composed his second string quintet in 1875, the same year that his first son was born. It was during this year that he produced a multitude of works, including his 5th Symphony, String Quintet No. 2, Piano Trio No. 1 and Serenade for Strings in E.
In 1877, the year in which Dvořák wrote the Symphonic Variations and Ludevít Procházka conducted its premiere in Prague, the music critic Eduard Hanslick informed him that his music had attracted the attention of the famous Johannes Brahms, whom Dvořák admired greatly. Brahms had a great influence over Dvořák's work; clear examples are the latter's Slavonic Dances, opp. 46 and 72 (1878 and 1886), on the model of Brahms's Hungarian Dances. Brahms contacted the major European musical publisher Simrock, advising him to contract with Dvořák.
Dvořák's Stabat Mater (1880) was performed abroad, and after a successful performance in London in 1883, Dvořák was invited to visit England where he appeared to great acclaim in 1884. The conductor Hans Richter asked to compose his Symphony No. 6 for the Vienna Philharmonic intending to premiere it in December 1880. However, Dvořák later discovered that, despite this intention, members of the orchestra objected to performing works by the composer in two consecutive seasons. Adolf Čech therefore conducted the premiere of the symphony at a concert of the Philharmonia society (in Czech: spolek Filharmonie, predecessor of the Czech Philharmonic) on March 25, 1881, in Prague. Richter did eventually conduct the piece in London in 1882 and still retained an interest in Dvořák’s compositions.
The Royal Philharmonic Society of London commissioned Dvořák to conduct concerts in London, and his performances were well received there. In response to the commission, Dvořák wrote his Symphony No. 7 and conducted the premiere of the symphony at St. James's Hall on April 22, 1885. Dvořák visited England nine times in total, often conducting his own works there. In 1887, Richter conducted the Symphonic Variations in London and Vienna to great acclaim (they had been written ten years earlier and Dvořák had allowed them to languish after initial lack of interest from his publishers).
In 1890, influenced by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Dvořák also visited Russia, and conducted the orchestras in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. In 1891, Dvořák received an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge, and was offered a position at the Prague Conservatory as professor of composition and instrumentation. At first he refused the offer, but then later accepted; this change of mind was seemingly a result of a quarrel with his publisher, Simrock, over payment for his Eighth Symphony. His Requiem premiered later that year in Birmingham at the Triennial Music Festival.
From 1892 to 1895, Dvořák was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, at a then-staggering $15,000 annual salary. The Conservatory had been founded by a wealthy and philanthropic socialite, Jeannette Thurber; it was located at 126–128 East 17th Street, but was demolished in 1911 and replaced by what is today a high school.
Dvořák's main goal in America was to discover "American Music" and engage in it, much as he had used Czech folk idioms within his music. Shortly after his arrival in America in 1892, Dvořák wrote a series of newspaper articles reflecting on the state of American music. He supported the concept that African-American and Native American music should be used as a foundation for the growth of American music. He felt that through the music of Native Americans and African-Americans, Americans would find their own national style of music. Here Dvořák met Harry Burleigh, his pupil at the time and one of the earliest African-American composers. Burleigh introduced Dvořák to traditional American spirituals.
In the winter and spring of 1893, Dvořák was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to write Symphony No.9, "From the New World", which was premiered under the baton of Anton Seidl. He spent the summer of 1893 with his family in the Czech-speaking community of Spillville, Iowa, to which some of his cousins had earlier immigrated. While there he composed the String Quartet in F (the "American"), and the String Quintet in E flat, as well as a Sonatina for violin and piano. He also conducted a performance of his Eighth Symphony at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago that same year.
Over the course of three months in 1895, Dvořák wrote his Cello Concerto in B minor. However, problems with Thurber about his salary, together with increasing recognition in Europe – he had been made an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna – and a remarkable amount of homesickness made him decide to return to Bohemia. He informed Thurber, who still owed him his salary, that he was leaving. Dvořák and his wife left New York before the end of the spring term with no intention of returning.
Dvořák's New York home was located at 327 East 17th Street, near the intersection of what is today called Perlman Place. It was in this house that both the B minor Cello Concerto and the New World Symphony were written within a few years. Despite protests, from Czech President Václav Havel amongst others, who wanted the house preserved as a historical site, it was demolished in 1991 to make room for a Beth Israel Medical Center residence for people with AIDS. To honor Dvořák, however, a statue of him was erected in nearby Stuyvesant Square.
Dvořák, his wife and Otakar returned from the United States on April 27, 1895, and was careful to avoid spreading the news about his return. However, after a performance of Dimitrij at the National Theater on May 19, Dvořák fled to Vysoká. Dvořák's first love Josefina Čermaková-Kaunicová died on May 27, 1895. During his final years, he concentrated on composing opera and chamber music. In October 1895, he resumed his professorship at the Prague Conservatory. Between 1895 to 1897, he completed his string quartets in A-flat major and G major, and also worked on the cycle of symphonic poems inspired by the collection Kytice by Karel Jaromír Erben. His chamber works directly influenced the establishment of the Czech Quartet (1891). In his last artistic period (from 1898 to 1904), he focused mainly on opera. He created some of his most valuable operatic works, such as The Devil and Kate (1898/99), Rusalka (1900) and Armida (1902/3). His works were now promoted and celebrated both in his native country and abroad. Gustav Mahler and Hans Richter contributed to his popularity with concerts in Vienna, Joseph Joachim and Hans von Bülow popularized his works in Germany, Joseph Barnby and Alexander Mackenzie in England.
In 1896 he visited London for the last time to hear the premiere of his Cello Concerto in B minor.
In 1897 Dvořák's daughter Otilie married his student, the composer Josef Suk. In the same year, Dvořák was appointed a member of the jury for the Viennese Artist's Stipendium, and was later honored with a medal. In April 1901, he became a member of the Austro-Hungarian House of Lords, along with writer Jaroslav Vrchlický. He also succeeded Antonín Bennewitz as director of the Prague Conservatory from November 1901 until his death. His 60th birthday was celebrated as a national event, with concerts and a banquet organized in his honor. His final performance as conductor with the Czech Philharmonic took place on April 4, 1900. Due to illness, he missed the performances of his oratorio Saint Ludmila, the violin concerto (solo part played by František Ondříček), and the New World Symphony at the 'First Czech Music Festival' held in April, 1904 in Prague.
Dvořák died from a stroke on May 1, 1904, following five weeks of illness, at the age of 63, leaving many unfinished works. His funeral service was held on May 5, and his ashes were interred in the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague, beneath a bust by Czech sculptor Ladislav Šaloun.
Dvořák's artistic beginnings were influenced by the styles of Beethoven and Schubert, later by Wagner and Liszt. Around 1870, Dvořák created some of his most important works influenced by Wagner and Neoromanticism, such as the opera Alfred and string quartets in B flat major, E minor and D major. Dvořák was passionate about his homeland. Many of his compositions, such as the Slavonic Dances and large collection of songs, were directly inspired by Czech, Moravian, and all Slavic traditional music. His major works reflect his heritage and the love he had for his native land. Dvořák followed in the footsteps of Bedřich Smetana, the composer who created the modern Czech musical style.
The "Slavic period" in Dvořák's work was directly influenced by the political situation in Bohemia of his time. In the late 1870s, after the unsuccessful attempts to resolve political and legal status of Czech countries in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, he decided to support the national liberation movement and focused on expressing his feelings using elements of Slavic folk music in his compositions. In the third movement of his String Quartet in D major, he uses as the main theme melody of the patriotic song Hej, Slované (Hey, Slavs), which was at that time banned by the Austrian authorities and whose public singing and performances were severely punished.
As the basis for his works, Dvořák frequently used folk dance forms, such as odzemek, furiant, mazurka, polonaise or Serbian Kolo, and also folk song forms of Slavic peoples, such as dumka. The influence is most significantly apparent in his Slavonic Dances, Three Slavonic Rhapsodies (1878), orchestral Polonaise (1879), Quartet in E flat major (1879, nicknamed "Slavonic"), Symphony in D major and the opera Dimitrij (1882).
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Dvořák wrote in a variety of forms: his nine symphonies generally stick to classical models, but he also worked in the newly developed form of symphonic poem. Many of his works show the influence of Czech genuine folk music, both in terms of elements such as rhythms and melodic shapes; amongst these are the two sets of Slavonic Dances, the Symphonic Variations, and the overwhelming majority of his songs, but echoes of such influence are also found in his major choral works. Dvořák also wrote operas (of which the best known is Rusalka); serenades for string orchestra and wind ensemble; chamber music (including a number of string quartets and quintets); and piano music. He was an occasional writer on music.
While a large number of Dvořák's works were given opus numbers, these did not always bear a logical relationship to the order in which they were either written or published. To achieve better sales, some publishers such as N. Simrock preferred to present budding composers as being well established, by giving some relatively early works much higher opus numbers than their chronological order would merit. In other cases, Dvořák deliberately provided new works with lower opus numbers to be able to sell them outside contract obligations to other publishers. An example is the Czech Suite which Dvořák didn't want to sell to Simrock, and had published with Schlesinger as Op.39 instead of Op.52. In this way it could come about that the same opus number was given to more than one of Dvořák's works; for example the opus number 12, which was assigned, successively, to: the opera King and Charcoal Burner (1871), the Concert Overture in F (1871, derived from the opera), the String Quartet No. 6 in A minor (1873), the Furiant in G minor for piano (1879), and the Dumka in C minor for piano (1884). In yet other cases, a work was given as many as three different opus numbers by different publishers.
The sequential numbering of his symphonies has also been confused: (a) they were initially numbered by order of publication, not composition; (b) the first four symphonies to be composed were published after the last five; and (c) the last five symphonies were not published in order of composition. This explains why, for example, the New World Symphony was originally published as No. 5, was later known as No. 8, and definitively renumbered as No. 9 in the critical editions published in the 1950s.
All of Dvořák's works were chronologically catalogued by Jarmil Burghauser in Antonín Dvořák. Thematic Catalogue. Bibliography. Survey of Life and Work (Export Artia, Prague, 1960). As an example, in the Burghauser catalogue, the New World Symphony, Op. 95 is B.178. Scholars today often refer to Dvořák's works by their B numbers (for Burghauser), although references to the traditional opus numbers are still common, in part because the opus numbers have historical continuity with earlier scores and printed programs. The opus numbers are still more likely to appear in printed programs for performances.
During Dvořák's life, only five of his symphonies were widely known. The first published was his sixth, dedicated to Hans Richter. After Dvořák's death, research uncovered four unpublished symphonies, of which the manuscript of the first had even been lost to the composer himself. This led to an unclear situation in which the New World Symphony has alternately been called the 5th, 8th and 9th. This article uses the modern numbering system, according to the order in which they were written.
With their broadly lyrical style and accessibility to the listener, Dvořák's symphonies seem to derive from the Schubertian tradition; but, as Taruskin suggests, the great difference was Dvořák's use of 'cyclic' form, especially in his later symphonies (and indeed concertos), whereby he 'occasionally recycled themes from movement to movement to a degree which lent his works a tinge of secret "programmaticism".'
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 3, was written when Dvořák was 24 years old. [n 1] was later subtitled The Bells of Zlonice after a village in Bohemia. Like the Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 4,[n 2] of the same year, it is, despite touches of originality, too wayward to maintain a place in the standard symphonic repertory.
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 10,[n 3] shows the impact of Dvořák's recent acquaintance with the music of Richard Wagner. This influence is less evident in Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 13,[n 4] except for the start of the second movement.
Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76,[n 5] and Symphony No. 6 in D major, Op. 60,[n 6]are largely pastoral in nature. The Sixth, published in 1880, shows a resemblance to the Symphony No. 2 of Brahms, particularly in the outer movements, though this similarity is belied by the third-movement furiant, a vivid Czech dance. This was the symphony that made Dvořák internationally known as a symphonic composer.
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88,[n 8] is characterized by a warmer and more optimistic tone. Karl Schumann (in booklet notes for a recording of all the symphonies by Rafael Kubelík) compares it to the works of Gustav Mahler.
Performed by the Virtual Philharmonic Orchestra (Reinhold Behringer) with digital samples (Garritan Personal Orchestra 4).
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Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95,[n 9] is also known by its subtitle, From the New World, or as the New World Symphony. Dvořák wrote it between January and May 1893, while he was in New York. At the time of its first performance, he claimed that he used elements from American music such as spirituals and Native American music in this work, but he later denied this. In an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, he wrote, "[In the 9th symphony] I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music." Neil Armstrong took a recording of the New World Symphony to the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, in 1969, and in 2009 it was voted the favourite symphony in a poll run by ABC Classic FM in Australia.
Many conductors have recorded cycles of the symphonies, including Karel Ančerl, István Kertész, Rafael Kubelík, Otmar Suitner, Libor Pešek, Zdeněk Mácal, Václav Neumann, Witold Rowicki, and Neeme Järvi.
Dvořák's symphonic poems (tone poems) are among his most original symphonic works. He wrote five symphonic poems, all in 1896–1897, and they have sequential opus numbers: The Water Goblin, Op. 107; The Noon Witch, Op. 108; The Golden Spinning Wheel, Op. 109; The Wild Dove, Op. 110; and A Hero's Song, Op. 111. The first four of these works are based upon ballads from the collection Kytice by the Czech folklorist Karel Jaromír Erben. A Hero's Song is based on a program of Dvořák's devising and is believed to be autobiographical.
The Stabat Mater, Op. 58, is an extensive (cca 90 minutes) vocal-instrumental sacred work for soli (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), choir and orchestra based on the text of an old church hymn with the same name. The first inspiration for creating this piece was the death of the composer's daughter, Josefa.
Antonín Dvořák composed his Requiem in 1890, at the beginning of the peak period of his career. Dvořák was a deeply religious man, and this work reflects his faith and spirituality. The premiere of the opus took place on the October 9, 1891 in Birmingham, which Dvořák himself conducted. The greatest success was probably its performance in Vienna in 1900, where Dvořák attained utter triumph, in contrast to a previously hostile Viennese audience.
The Te Deum, op.103, is a cantata for soprano and baritone solo, choir and orchestra to the Latin text of the famous hymn Te Deum (God, we laud You). It was composed in 1892 and dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. The composition had been completed before Dvořák moved to America and was commissioned by Jeanette Thurber in 1891, when the composer accepted a position as director of her school. The composition, which is on a more intimate scale than the Stabat Mater and Requiem, was premiered at Dvořák's first concert in New York on October 21, 1892.
The Mass in D major, (originally numbered as op.76, finally as op.86) was originally intended for organ, solo voices and small choir. The work was given its final shape in the year 1892 when, in response to a request from the Novello publishers of London, Dvořák arranged his Mass for a symphony orchestra.
The writer Harold C. Schonberg suggested that Dvořák wrote "an attractive Piano Concerto in G minor with a rather ineffective piano part, a beautiful Violin Concerto in A minor, and a supreme Cello Concerto in B minor". All the concerti are in the classical three-movement form.
The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 33 was the first of three concerti that Dvořák composed and orchestrated, and it is perhaps the least known of those three.
The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 53 was the second of the three concerti that Dvořák composed and orchestrated. He had met the great violinist Joseph Joachim in 1878 and decided to write a concerto for him. He finished it in 1879, but Joachim was skeptical of the work. The concerto was premiered in 1883 in Prague by the violinist František Ondříček, who also gave its first performances in Vienna and London.
The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104 was the last composed of Dvořák's concerti. He wrote it in 1894–1895 for his friend the cellist Hanuš Wihan. Wihan and others had asked for a cello concerto for some time, but Dvořák always refused, stating that the cello was a fine orchestral instrument but completely insufficient for a solo concerto. Dvořák composed the concerto in New York while serving as the Director of the National Conservatory. In 1894 Victor Herbert, who was also teaching at the Conservatory, had written a cello concerto and presented it in a series of concerts. Dvořák attended at least two performances of Victor Herbert's cello concerto and was inspired to fulfill Wihan's request for a cello concerto. Dvořák's concerto received its premiere in London on March 16, 1896, with the English cellist Leo Stern. The work was well received. Brahms said of the work: "Had I known that one could write a cello concerto like this, I would have written one long ago!"
Over thirty years earlier in 1865, Dvořák had composed a Cello Concerto in A major, but with accompaniment by piano rather than orchestra. It is believed Dvořák had intended to orchestrate it, but abandoned it. It was orchestrated by the German composer Günter Raphael between 1925 and 1929, and again by his cataloguer Jarmil Burghauser and was published in this form in 1952 as B.10.
Performed by Roxana Pavel Goldstein (violin) and Monica Pavel (piano)
Performed by Roxana Pavel Goldstein (violin) and Monica Pavel (piano)
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Over a period of almost 30 years, Dvořák's output of chamber music was prolific and diverse, composing more than 40 works for ensembles with strings.
In 1860 just after he finished his education at the Organ school, Dvořák composed his String Quintet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 1. Two more would follow, of which the String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 77 from early 1875, is noteworthy for the use of a double bass. It was written for a chamber music competition sponsored by the Umělecká beseda (Artistic Circle), where it was unanimously awarded the prize of five ducats for the "distinction of theme, the technical skill in polyphonic composition, the mastery of form and the knowledge of the instruments" displayed. The String Quintet No.3 in E♭major, Op. 97, with a second viola added, was written near the end of his output for chamber ensemble during his American period in 1893, when he spent a summer holiday in Spillville, Iowa.
Within a year after completing his first string quintet, Dvořák completed his String Quartet No. 1 in A major, Op. 2, the first of his fourteen string quartets. Though his grasp of composition skills is better than in the previous quintet, Dvořák had difficulty in restraining himself, resulting in an over-long composition. In the 1880s Dvořák made a list of compositions he had destroyed, which lists two quartets and 2 other quartets. He may well have destroyed the scores, but only after the instrumental parts had been copied out. The number of errors in the parts makes it highly unlikely that he actually had them played. The quartets numbered 2 to 4 were probably composed between 1868 and 1870 and show the strong influence of the music of Richard Wagner. Although Dvořák discarded these quartets, he saved an Andante religioso from his fourth quartet, to which he gave a new life five years later in his second string quintet Op. 77, as a second movement named Intermezzo: Nocturne, making this a five-movement composition.
In 1873 Dvořák's life turned for the better: he married Anna Čermáková, and he had his first great success with his cantata Dědicové bilé hory (The Heirs of the White Mountain). The two Quartets he wrote in this year show a stronger sense of form. The composition of his String Quartet No. 5 in F minor, Op. 9, B.37,came at a time of mood extremes: success with the cantata, the acceptance of his second opera for rehearsal by Smetana, and his marriage, but also the setback of the total failure of the opera rehearsals, and the ultimate rejection of the work.
His most popular quartet is his twelfth, the American, Op. 96. He also composed two piano quintets, both in A major, of which the second, Op. 81, is the better known. He left a Terzetto for two violins and viola (Op. 74); two piano quartets, a string sextet; Op. 48; and four piano trios, including the Piano Trio No. 4 (subtitled Dumky), Op. 90. He also wrote a set of Bagatelles, Op. 47, for the unusual instrumentation of two violins, cello, and harmonium, two waltzes for string quartet, and a set of twelve love songs arranged for quartet, taken from his set of 18 songs originally composed in 1865 entitled Cypresses.
In a 1904 interview, Dvořák claimed that opera was 'the most suitable form for the nation'. If this nationalist sentiment was at the heart of his opera compositions, he also struggled to find a style straddling Czech traditional melody and the grand opera style of Giacomo Meyerbeer, which he experienced as lead viola player in the orchestra of Prague's Provisional Theatre between 1862 and 1871, and whose influence is very evident in his works such as Vanda and Dimitrij. His later interest in the music of Richard Wagner also affected his operas, evident in the very extensive rewrite of Dmitirij in 1894, following its failure at Vienna.
Of all his operas, only Rusalka, Op. 114, which contains the well-known aria "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" ("Song to the Moon"), is played on contemporary opera stages with any frequency outside the Czech Republic. This is attributable to their uneven invention and libretti, and perhaps also their staging requirements — The Jacobin, Armida, Vanda and Dimitrij need stages large enough to portray invading armies.
There is speculation by Dvořák scholars such as Michael Beckerman that portions of his Symphony No. 9 "From the New World", notably the second movement, were adapted from studies for a never-written opera about Hiawatha.
The song cycle of 10 Biblical Songs, op.99, was written in March 1894. It was at this time Dvořák was informed of the death of the famous conductor, and his close personal friend, Hans von Bülow. Just a month earlier, he had been grieved to hear that his father was near death, far away in Bohemia. Dvořák consoled himself in the Psalms. The resulting work, considered the finest of his song cycles, is based on the text of Czech Bible of Kralice. As fate would have it, his father expired 2 days after the completion of the work.
Another well known cycle is the seven "Gypsy Songs" (Czech Cikánské melodie) B. 104, Op. 55 which includes 'Songs My Mother Taught Me' (the fourth of the set).
Dvořák created many other songs inspired by Czech national traditional music, such as the "Love Songs", "Evening Songs", etc.
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From other important works, that show also the influence of Czech folk music, both in terms of rhythms and melodic shapes; perhaps the best known examples are the two sets of Slavonic Dances, written in two series. The first book, Op. 46 (1878), is predominantly Czech in respect to the forms represented. They were created for piano duet (one piano, four hands), but Dvořák proceeded to orchestrate the entire set, completing that version the same year. The second book, Op. 72 (as well as previous composed originally for piano) which came along nine years later, includes forms native to such other Slavic lands as Serbia, Poland and Ukraine.
Dvořák, however, in dealing with his own native idiom, did not use actual folk tunes in his dances, but created his own themes in the authentic style of traditional folk music, using only rhythms of original folk dances.
A work that does not fit into any of the above categories is the Symphonic Variations of 1877, the first set of orchestral variations on an original theme to be composed as a freestanding work. Originally unsuccessful and revived only after ten years, it has since established itself in the repertoire.
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Dvořák had a prominent role to play in the development of American music. The second half of the nineteenth century saw a blossoming of national styles, as countries looked to their cultural roots to celebrate their heritage through music that evoked these themes and folk melodies. Dvořák supported Cecil Sharp in England in his efforts to collect and encourage English Folk Music as a conduit for national renewal. He found the inspiration he needed for American music in the melodies of Native and African Americans. In his opinion, these were the melodies that would contribute most heavily to the foundation of an American musical style. Dvořák was introduced to African American spirituals through his friendship with Harry Burleigh, one of his students who later became his personal assistant. Burleigh shared with Dvořák many of the songs his grandfather used to sing to him, and Dvořák encouraged Burleigh to transcribe and perform many of these melodies. Burleigh's performances of these native melodies would later influence musicians like Marian Anderson.
Antonín Dvořák's career in America served as an impetus in the development of an American style of music that influenced future generations. His challenge to American musicians, as well as his American-inspired pieces, served as a model for many composers. Some of these, such as Amy Beach and William Grant Still, took his suggestion to heart and tried to find their own manner of creating an American music. He simply helped in the formation of an American style, a process that would continue through the students he instructed and into the ensuing decades as American music developed its own identity.
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