Antonín Dvořák


(born Sept. 8, 1841, Nelahozeves, Bohemia, Austrian Empiredied May 1, 1904, Prague) Bohemian (Czech) composer. Son of a rural innkeeper and butcher, he was permitted to attend organ school in Prague in 1857. He played viola in a theatre orchestra, often under the Czech nationalist composer Bedich Smetana, and eventually found employment that left him ample time for composition. Johannes Brahms assisted in getting Dvok's works published, and by 1880 his fame had spread throughout Europe. While serving as director of New York's new National Conservatory of Music (189295) he composed the symphony From the New World (1893), his best-known work, which is thought to be based on black spirituals and other American influences. His music frequently draws on folk tunes and is seen as an expression of Czech nationalism. Highly prolific, he is primarily known for his orchestral and chamber compositions; his works include 9 symphonies, concertos for piano, violin, and cello, 2 serenades, several tone poems, 14 string quartets, 2 piano quartets, and 2 piano quintets. His many piano works include the four-hand Slavonic Dances (1878, 1886). His sacred music includes a Stabat Mater (1877), a Requiem (1890), and a Te Deum (1892). Of his 13 operas, only Rusalka (1900) is still performed.

For more information on Antonn Leopold Dvok, visit

Oxford Grove Music Encyclopedia:

Antonín (Leopold) Dvořák


(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♭.

Orchestral music
  •, c, ‘Bells of Zlonice’ (1865)
  •, B♭ (1865)
  •, E♭ (1873)
  •, d (1874)
  •, F (1875)
  •, D (1880)
  •, d (1885)
  •, G (1889)
  •, e, ‘From the New World’(1893)
  • Pf Conc., g (1876)
  • Vn Conc., a (1880), Vc Conc., b (1895)
  • Sym.Variations (1877)
  • Scherzo capriccioso (1883)
  • 8 ovs.
  • 2 serenades (str, E, 1879
  • wind, d, 1878)
  • 3 Slavonic Rhapsodies (1878)
  • 2 sets of Slavonic Dances (orig.for pf duet, 1878, 1886)
  • 5 sym.poems (1896-7)
Chamber music
  • 3 str qnts(incl. op.97, E♭, 1893)
  • 14 str qts(incl. op.51, E♭, 1879
  • op.61, C, 1881
  • op.96, F, 1893
  • op.105, A♭, 1896
  • op.106, G, 1895)
  • StrSextet, op.48 (1878)
  • 6 pf trios (incl. op.65, F, 1883
  • op.90, e, ‘Dumky’, 1891)
  • 2 pf qts(incl. op.87, E♭, 1889)
  • 2 pf qnts(incl. op.81, A, 1887)
  • sonatas
  • other chamber works
  • many pf pieces (dances, eclogues, character-pieces, duets)
  • orgpreludes and fugues
Dramatic music
  • Dimitrij (1882, 1894)
  • The Jacobin (1889, 1898)
  • Kate and the Devil (1899)
  • Rusalka (1901)
  • Armida (1904)
  • 6 other operas
  • incidental music
Vocal music
  • Stabat mater (1877)
  • The Spectre's Bride, cantata (1884)
  • StLudmilla, oratorio (1886)
  • Requiem (1890)
  • 2 masses, cantatas and sacred choral works
  • partsongs, choral arrs.of Czech folksongs
  • over 100 songs and duets with pf acc
  • other arrs.


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.

Further Reading

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).

Additional Sources

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.

Oxford Dictionary of Dance:

Antonín Dvořák


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.


  • Clapham, John, Antonin Dvořák: Musician and Craftsman (1966).
  • Janáček, Leoš, “‘A Discussion of Two Tone Poems Based on Texts by Karel Jaromír Erben: The Wood Dove and The Golden Spinning Wheel’” (1897–8), trans. Tatiana Firkušný, in Michael Beckerman (ed.), Dvořák and his World (1993).

— Stephen Benson

Answer of the Day:

Antonín Dvorák

Antonín Dvorák  
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Dvorák, best known for his 9th symphony, From the New World (1893), was born on this date in 1841. The Czech composer got some of his earliest works published with the help of Johannes Brahms. Dvorák was director of New York's National Conservatory when he composed his New World Symphony, which incorporates American folk tunes. Dvorák's other popular pieces include his Slavonic Dances (1878), The American (1893) and Cello Concerto in B Minor (1894-5).

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From our Archives: Today's Highlights, September 8, 2006

Dvořák, Antonín (än'tônēn dvôr'zhäk), 1841-1904, Czech composer. He studied at the Organ School, Prague (1857-59) and played viola in the National Theater Orchestra (1861-71) under Smetana. With the performance (1873) of his Hymnus he attracted wide attention. In 1884 he went to England to conduct some of his works and eight years later moved on to the United States. While director (1892-94) of the National Conservatory, New York, he composed his most famous work, the Symphony in E Minor, Op. 95, From the New World (1893). It conveys with great exuberance Dvořák's impressions of American scenes and folk music and at the same time evokes nostalgia for his native land. After his return to Prague he was professor and director of the conservatory there. He drew freely on Czech folk music and materials in his works, which are outstanding for their rhythmic variety, melodic invention, and brilliant instrumentation. They include nine symphonies (two published posthumously), as well as symphonic poems, concertos, overtures, string quartets and other chamber music, operas, songs, choral works (mostly religious), and some piano pieces, notable for their freshness of romantic imagination.


See biographical studies by G. Hughes (1967), J. Clapham (1966), V. Fischl, ed. (1943, repr. 1970), and M. B. Beckerman (2002).

AMG AllMovie Guide:

Antonin Dvorák



The sweeping lyricism of this late Romantic composer's symphonic works and songs was influenced by both European and American folk music, including African-American and Native American songs in the later works. Like most compositions which have been quoted in film soundtracks, there is one work that tends to be used the most; in this case, that piece is the well-known theme set to words in the song "Going Home," from Dvorák's Ninth Symphony, From the New World.

Based on a true story, the film Paradise Road (1997) depicts the Japanese attack on Singapore in 1942. A boat carrying mostly European women and children escapees is strafed by Japanese airplanes and they are forced to abandon the ship. They swim ashore at different places on the island of Sumatra and are eventually rounded up by brutal Japanese soldiers and placed in a prison camp. The women and the few children survive as best they can, even managing to form a vocal ensemble that sings orchestral pieces, including a beautiful wordless arrangement of the "Going Home" theme from Dvorák's Ninth, as well as "Finlandia" by Sibelius, Chopin's piano Prelude in C Minor, Bolero by Maurice Ravel, as well as various folk ballads. The music in the movie is based on the actual scores of 30 of the arrangements which survived the war.

In the action thriller Clear and Present Danger (1994), CIA agent Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is sent to Bogota, Columbia, initially to investigate the murder of one of the U.S. President's friends, a business man with secret ties to the drug cartels. When Dan Murray, Jack's friend and a government agent, and other officials are killed in a vicious street battle, their bodies are sent home with full honors. A moving arrangement for brass choir of the "Going Home" theme from Dvorák's Ninth Symphony accompanies the ceremonies.

This same theme also appears in the surreal Underground (1995) (aka Once Upon a Time There Was a Country), about secret weapons manufacturing; Sydney Pollack's comedy Sabrina (1995); Escalier C (Staircase C, 1985); Ken Russell's intense and surreal Crimes of Passion (1984); Harry Munter (1969); the travelogue Beautiful Banff and Lake Louise (1946); and Night Descends on Treasure Island (1940) which shows the Golden Gate International Exposition at nighttime.

Dvorák's opera Rusalka, also known as The Water Nymph, has received several television and film realizations, including one for American TV in 1986, three in Australian films of 1977, 1963, and in 1910; the opera is also excerpted in the German film Goldflocken (Flakes of Gold, 1976).

The composer's lighthearted Humoresque is played on the early electronic instrument called the theremin in the wonderful biopic Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (1993) and also provides part of the score for Humoresque (1946), a romance-drama with Joan Crawford and John Garfield.

Parts of Dvorák's Symphony No. 7 were used for the 12-episode Japanese television series Sore ga kotae da! (1997) and his Symphony No. 8 is excerpted in the documentary on the Valle d'Aran, Doscientos lagos (1975).

In the seven-minute Danish film portrait Ellen Birgithe Nielsen spiller (1943), the subject herself sings the composer's famous "Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op. 55/4," a warm sentimental tune, often sung in four-part harmony by vocal ensembles. The piece was first published in America in 1880 shortly before the composer visited the States.

Dvorák's songs appear in the dramatic film Barbora Hlavsová (1943) ("Kdyz mne stará matka"), and Kouzelny' dum (The Magic House, 1939) ("Milostná písen"). ~ "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Rovi


Considered the greatest composer that the Czech nation ever produced, Antonin Dvorak wrote a career’s worth of classical works for orchestra, symphony, and choir that survive as some of the most majestic and acclaimed works of nineteenth-century Romantic music. Dvorak’s most lasting legacy to musical history, however, is the way in which he infused his work with melodies and elements from Bohemian folk tunes, Gypsy rhythms, and even African-American spirituals. The freshness of spirit and sense of delight that are hallmarks of Dvorak’s music, according to many scholars, are considered emblematic of the composer’s pleasant, unassuming personality and lifelong devotion to both family and a beloved home in the Czech countryside.

Dvorak was born in Nelahozeves, Bohemia in 1841, a village about 45 miles north of Prague. He was the first of eight children born to Frantisek Dvorak, a second generation butcher who also ran a local drinking establishment. The elder Dvorak was musically inclined and proficient on the zither and violin, thus little Antonin was exposed to music at an early age, and was reportedly a keen participant in the traditional folk dances that were an integral part of village social life. As a child, Dvorak sang in the church choir and was a student at the village school. The local organist, a man named Josef Spitz, taught Dvorak the violin, and his gifts gained him a place as a junior member Nelahozeves’s village band.

Around the age of eleven Dvorak was sent to another town to learn the butcher’s trade. The following year, in 1853, he arrived in the town of Zlonice to study German—Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and German was the language of government, trade, and commerce. Dvorak was fortunate enough to find a language teacher, Antonin Liehmann, who was also an accomplished musician, and Liehmann began training him on the organ, piano, and viola; he also gave him a solid grounding in musical theory. But understandably, the youth was not learning a great deal of German, and so Dvorak’s father, still convinced of his son’s destiny as a butcher and tavern keeper, sent him to a more rigorous school. He returned to Zlonice upon completion, and with Liehmann’s help convinced his father to send him to Prague for further musical study. An uncle offered to pay the tuition.

Gained Early Renown in Prague
At the age of 16, Dvorak entered Prague’s Organ School. He graduated two years later in 1859. He began playing in local ensembles in Prague, but was too poor to buy musical scores; he did not even have his own piano and spent a great deal of time in a friend’s quarters.

In 1862 he began playing in a small orchestra which evolved into the Provisional Theatre Orchestra. Dvorak became its principal violinist, but also played the viola over the next decade for this leading Prague ensemble. In 1866 Bedrich Smetana, considered the first great composer to emerge from Bohemia, became the orchestra’s conductor as well as a mentor to Dvorak, encouraging him to write music based on traditional folk tunes.

During the 1860s Dvorak played in cafes and theaters, and also taught music privately. He wrote his first symphony, No. 1 in C Minor, The Bells of Zlonice, in 1865, and also began to write for the opera. Much of this early work was reminiscent of the heavy, somber compositions of Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms, the most famous living German composers of this era. But it was an 1872 setback that forced Dvorak to re-examine his inspirations: with the Prague Philharmonic, Smetana conducted the overture for an opera Dvorak had written, but King and Charcoal Burner was deemed too complicated for staging. Depressed, Dvorak destroyed some of his older compositions, but in the end rewrote King and Charcoal Burner and used far more Bohemian melodies and themes. It debuted successfully in Prague in November of 1874.

In 1873 Dvorak took a post as the organist at St. Adalbert’s in Prague. He also married Anna Cermakova, one of his former students, that same year. His first true success also came in 1873 when a choral work, Heirs to the White Mountain, was enthusiastically received at its initial performance in March. He had based the work on a patriotic poem recalling a Czech defeat in 1620. The following year, with a newfound sense of confidence in his abilities, Dvorak entered the Austrian State Stipendium competition. Brahms sat on its jury, and was greatly impressed by the young Czech and his ability to integrate Bohemian folk melodies into a serious classical opus. Dvorak was awarded a respectable prize that year, and Brahms helped him find a publisher for his music.

In 1878 the music for Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances was published and these eight Bohemian folk melodies, based on the polka and similar dances from his native area, were immediately praised for their originality. The spirit of the work also fit well with the emergence of Czech nationalist sentiment in this era, as its people struggled to maintain an identity separate from the Empire. Slavonic Dances were originally written as a piano work, but Dvorak later orchestrated them; their first public performances took place the following year in Hamburg, Germany and Nice, France. The continued good reception that greeted performances across Europe brought the composer great acclaim. Dvorak finally began to gain some measure of financial stability, and was able to purchase a home for his growing family in the Czech countryside at Vysoka.

In 1877, one of the Dvorak’s children died in infancy, and in grief Dvorak—a devout Roman Catholic—he began writing his Stabat Mater. This was a Latin poem from the early 14th century that several other well-known composers had also set to music. Dvorak’s version was first performed in 1880, and its debut in England nearly three yeas later marked the beginning of Dvorak’s successful liaison with British audiences and the London Philharmonic. His works became extremely popular there, and Dvorak frequently sailed there to debut new works.

A Staunch Nationalist
Dvorak continued to write operas based on Czech lore. The Jacobin and Dimitrij, both of which emerged during the 1880s, were well received. Kate and the Devil (1898) won him a prize of two thousand kroner from the Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts. The Cunning Peasant (1877) enjoyed numerous performances across Europe over the course of several years, though for some years a debut in Vienna—the center of the opera world—was stymied by nationalist sentiment inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Officials at the Vienna Opera had declined to stage Dvorak’s Czech operas, and requested that he write a German-language work. He balked at the insult, and felt to do so would be a betrayal of his Czech pride. Yet Dvorak continued to enjoy great success abroad during the 1880s. His cantata, The Spectre’s Bride, was well received at its debut in 1884, though the composer often dreaded the task of conducting this four-to-five hour performance himself. St. Ludmilla was a similar choral work that debuted in London in 1886 with a 350-member choir, based on the Slavic saint and her conversion to Christianity.

In 1891 Dvorak became a professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory, but left the following year when he was hired by the National Conservatory of Music in Manhattan to serve as its director. His generous $15,000 a year salary was paid by Jeanette Thurber, one of the school’s founders, but her family fortune-soon declined as a result of Wall Street financial crises, and she grew arrears in his salary. At the conservatory, he was expected to take a light teaching load and serve as a composer in residence. During this time he became greatly enamored of African-American and Native American music, and began writing his best known work, Symphony from the New World, No. 9 in E Minor, during this period. First performed at Carnegie Hall in December of 1893 by the New York Philharmonic, it made its European debut—conducted by Dvorak during a trip home—in October of 1894 in Prague at its National Theater.

Died in Poverty
In parts of Symphony from the New World can be heard melodies Dvorak borrowed from indigenous American sources, which fascinated him as much as the rustic peasant dances of his native Bohemia once had. "Fierce debate raged about whether Dvorak had used Negro and American Indian tunes as the basis for this most loved of symphonies, or whether it was a Czech work that had captured the spirit of American national melodies," noted Jeremy Nicholas in The Classic FM Guide to Classical Music. "A century later it seems hugely unimportant when we are swept along with Dvorak’s masterly orchestration and his unforgettable themes." Nicholas also noted that in England a few bars from Dvorak’s No. 9 became indelibly associated with a brand of brown bread after it they were used in a memorable television advertisement.

From 1892 to 1895 Dvorak lived on E. 17th Street in New York City, and spent summers in lowa in a small town founded by Bohemian immigrants called Spillville. He also traveled to the Chicago World Exhibition in 1893, and conducted an orchestra there on Czech Day. But he was home sick for the Bohemian countryside, the house in Vysoka, and his family so despite the debt still owed him by Thurber, he ended his ties with the Conservatory in 1895 and returned home.

Dvorak returned to his professorship at Prague Conservatory, and became its director in 1901. That same year he was honored in his homeland on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, and became the first musician ever to be named to the Austrian House of Lords. He devoted his last years to working on an opera, Armida, but despite his international recognition he had achieved, he lived in relative poverty as a result of unfavorable contracts with his music publishers. The composer was diagnosed with a kidney disease and contracted influenza after Armidsi’s first ill-fated performance. He died several weeks later on May 1, 1904. A national day of mourning was declared, and Dvorak was honored with a burial in Vysehrad Cemetery, where many prominent Czechs are also buried.

Selected discography
Dvorak: No. 1 in C Minor, The Bells of Zionice, with Berliner Staatskapelle, Berlin Classics, 1979.
Dvorak: Stabat Mater, Psalm 149/Jiri Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Chandos, 1991.
Dvorak: The Greatest Hits, Reference Gold, 1993.
Dvorak: Overtures, Vanda, Carnival, Othello, My Home, Naxos, 1994.
Dvorak: Symphony from the New World, No. 9 in E Minor, BBC Radio, 1995.
Dvorak: Opera Overtures and Preludes/Robert Slankovsky, Marco Polo, 1996.
Slavonic Dances/Berliner Philharmonic conducted by Lorin Maazel, EMI Classics, 1997.
Dvorak: Rusalka/Mackerras, Fleming, Heppner, et al., London/Decca, 1998.
Dvorak: Slavonic Dances Op. 46 & 72/Yoel Levi, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Telarc, 1999.

Nicholas, Jeremy, The Classic FM Guide to Classical Music, Pavilion, 1997.
Sadie, Stanley, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Macmillan, 1980.
Soleil, Jean-Jacques, and Guy Lelong, Musical Masterpieces, Chambers, 1991.

American Record Guide, September/October 1996, p. 115; September/October 1998, pp. 83-101.
Antonin Dvorák
  • Genres: Chamber Music, Choral Music, Concerto, Keyboard Music, Opera, Orchestral Music, Symphony, Vocal Music


Widely regarded as the most distinguished of Czech composers, Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904) produced attractive and vigorous music possessed of clear formal outlines, melodies that are both memorable and spontaneous-sounding, and a colorful, effective instrumental sense. Dvorák is considered one of the major figures of nationalism, both proselytizing for and making actual use of folk influences, which he expertly combined with Classical forms in works of all genres. His symphonies are among his most widely appreciated works; the Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World," 1893) takes a place among the finest and most popular examples of the symphonic literature. Similarly, his Cello Concerto (1894-1895) is one of the cornerstones of the repertory, providing the soloist an opportunity for virtuosic flair and soaring expressivity. Dvorák displayed special skill in writing for chamber ensembles, producing dozens of such works; among these, his 14 string quartets (1862-1895), the "American" Quintet (1893) and the "Dumky" Trio (1890-1891) are outstanding examples of their respective genres, overflowing with attractive folklike melodies set like jewels into the solid fixtures of Brahmsian absolute forms.

Dvorák's "American" and "New World" works arose during the composer's sojourn in the United States in the early 1890s; he was uneasy with American high society and retreated to a small, predominantly Czech town in Iowa for summer vacations during his stay. However, he did make the acquaintance of the pioneering African-American baritone H.T. Burleigh, who may have influenced the seemingly spiritual-like melodies in the "New World" symphony and other works; some claim that the similarity resulted instead from a natural affinity between African-American and Eastern European melodic structures.

By that time, Dvorák was among the most celebrated of European composers, seen by many as the heir to Brahms, who had championed Dvorák during the younger composer's long climb to the top. The son of a butcher and occasional zither player, Dvorák studied the organ in Prague as a young man and worked variously as a café violist and church organist during the 1860s and 1870s while creating a growing body of symphonies, chamber music, and Czech-language opera. For three years in the 1870s he won a government grant (the Viennese critic Hanslick was among the judges) designed to help the careers of struggling young creative artists. Brahms gained for Dvorák a contract with his own publisher, Simrock, in 1877; the association proved a profitable one despite an initial controversy that flared when Dvorák insisted on including Czech-language work titles on the printed covers, a novelty in those musically German-dominated times. In the 1880s and 1890s Dvorák's reputation became international in scope thanks to a series of major masterpieces that included the Seventh, Eighth, and "New World" symphonies. At the end of his life he turned to opera once again; Rusalka, from 1901, incorporates Wagnerian influences into the musical telling of its legend-based story, and remains the most frequently performed of the composer's vocal works. Dvorák, a professor at Prague University from 1891 on, exerted a deep influence on Czech music of the twentieth century; among his students was Josef Suk, who also became his son-in-law. ~ All Music Guide, Rovi
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Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Leopold Dvořák (/ˈdvɔrʒɑːk/ DVOR-zhahk or /dɨˈvɔrʒæk/ 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'.[1]

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'.[2]



Early years

Birthhouse of Antonín Dvořák in Nelahozeves

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).[3] František was an innkeeper, professional player of the zither, and a butcher. Anna was the daughter of Josef Zdeněk, the bailiff of Prince Lobkowitz.[4] Anna and František married on November 17, 1840.[5] Dvořák was the first of fourteen children, eight of whom survived infancy.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

Antonín Dvořák in 1868

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] In 1866, Maýr was replaced as chief conductor by Bedřich Smetana.[15][16] 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".[17] 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.

Composer and organist

Dvořák played organ at St. Adalbert's Church in Prague from 1874 to 1877

Dvořák's composing career is first documented in the String Quintet in A Minor (1861) and in his First String Quartet (1862).[18] 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.[19] In 1870, he composed his first opera, Alfred over the course of five months from May to October, but it was quickly forgotten.[20]

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.[21] At that time, he also excluded more than a half of his compositions from his oeuvre.[22]

Dvořák with his wife Anna in London, 1886

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.[23] 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.

International reputation

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.[24] 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.[25] Adolf Čech therefore conducted the premiere of the symphony at a concert of the Philharmonia society (in Czech: spolek Filharmonie,[26] predecessor of the Czech Philharmonic) on March 25, 1881, in Prague.[27] Richter did eventually conduct the piece in London in 1882 and still retained an interest in Dvořák’s compositions.[28]

The Royal Philharmonic Society of London commissioned Dvořák to conduct concerts in London, and his performances were well received there.[29] 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.[30] Dvořák visited England nine times in total,[31] 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.[31] 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.

New York City

Dvořák with his family and friends in New York in 1893. From left: his wife Anna, son Antonín, Sadie Siebert, Josef Jan Kovařík, mother of Sadie Siebert, daughter Otilie, Antonín Dvořák[32]

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,[33][34] 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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38][39][40] To honor Dvořák, however, a statue of him was erected in nearby Stuyvesant Square.[34]

Last years

Portrait of Dvořák's son-in-law, the composer Josef Suk, with dedication: "Drahé miss Otilce Dvořákové" ("To dear miss Otilka Dvořáková"), 1894

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.[41] 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.[41] During his final years, he concentrated on composing opera and chamber music. In October 1895, he resumed his professorship at the Prague Conservatory.[42] 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).[43] 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).[44] 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.[45]

In 1896 he visited London for the last time to hear the premiere of his Cello Concerto in B minor.

Dvořák's funeral on May 5, 1904 was an event of national significance[46]

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.[47] In April 1901, he became a member of the Austro-Hungarian House of Lords, along with writer Jaroslav Vrchlický.[48] He also succeeded Antonín Bennewitz as director of the Prague Conservatory from November 1901 until his death.[49] His 60th birthday was celebrated as a national event, with concerts and a banquet organized in his honor.[50] His final performance as conductor with the Czech Philharmonic took place on April 4, 1900.[51] 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.[52]

Dvořák died from a stroke on May 1, 1904,[53] following five weeks of illness, at the age of 63, leaving many unfinished works. His funeral service was held on May 5,[54] and his ashes were interred in the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague, beneath a bust by Czech sculptor Ladislav Šaloun.


Dvořák's gravesite in the Vyšehrad cemetery

Dvořák's artistic beginnings were influenced by the styles of Beethoven and Schubert, later by Wagner and Liszt.[55] 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.[56] 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.[57] 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.[58]

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.[57] 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).[59]


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.[60]


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.[61] 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.


Title page of the autograph score of Dvořák's ninth symphony

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".'[2]

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.[62]

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.[62]

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,[62] 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. 7 in D minor of 1885, Op. 70,[n 7] was written when Dvořák was struggling to have his Czech operas accepted in Vienna, feeling pressure to write operas in German.

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.

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,[63] and in 2009 it was voted the favourite symphony in a poll run by ABC Classic FM in Australia.[64]

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.

Symphonic poems

Dvořák's symphonic poems (tone poems) are among his most original symphonic works.[65] 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.[66]

Choral works

The title page of the score of Stabat Mater

To Dvořák's main choral works belong his setting of Stabat Mater (the longest extant setting of that work),[67] his Requiem, his setting of the Te Deum and his Mass in D major.

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.[68] 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.[citation needed]

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.[69]

Other choral works by Dvořák include: The Spectre's Bride, and his oratorio Saint Ludmila.


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".[70] 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.

Chamber music

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.[71] The String Quintet No.3 in Emajor, 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.[72] 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.[citation needed] 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.[73] 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.[74]

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'.[75] 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,[76] and whose influence is very evident in his works such as Vanda and Dimitrij.[77] 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.[78]

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.[79]


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.[80] 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.[80]

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.

Other works

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.


Influence in America

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.

In 1943, an American Liberty ship of the U.S. Navy was named USNS Antonín Dvořák in his honor.

Notable students



  1. ^ First performed 1936; first published 1961
  2. ^ First performed 1888; first published 1959
  3. ^ First performed 1874; first published 1912
  4. ^ First performed 1892; first published 1912
  5. ^ First performed 1879; first published 1888 as 'Symphony no. 3'
  6. ^ First performed and published in 1881 as 'Symphony no. 1'
  7. ^ First performed and published in 1885 as 'Symphony no. 2'
  8. ^ First performed and published in 1888 as 'Symphony no. 4'
  9. ^ First performed in 1893 and published in 1894 as 'Symphony no. 5'


  1. ^ Clapham (1995), 765
  2. ^ a b Taruskin (2010), 754
  3. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 276 ("...prvorozený syn Františka D. (1814/94) a matky Anny, rozené z Uhů u Velvar (1820/82)"
  4. ^ Hughes, p. 22-23
  5. ^ Clapman, p. 3
  6. ^ Hughes, p. 24
  7. ^ Clapham (1979), p. 23
  8. ^ Schönzeler, p. 34 and Kurt, pp. 13–14
  9. ^ Kurt, p. 14–16
  10. ^ Schönzeler, pp. 36–38
  11. ^ Schönzeler, p. 39
  12. ^ Clapman, p. 5
  13. ^ Clapman, p. 5-6
  14. ^ Hughes, p.35
  15. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 276 ("...setrval v orch. do 1871") (Dvořák left the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra in 1871),
  16. ^ Burghauser (2006), p. 13 ("... od roku 1866 pak pod Bedřichem Smetanou, který vystřídal Maýra ve vedení opery.")
  17. ^ Burghauser (2006), pp. 14-15 ("... rozsáhlý písňový cyklus Cypřiše ... se pravděpodobně vztahuje přímo k osobě obdivované Josefiny ...")
  18. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 276 ("Přesto pilně skládal již 1861 smyčc. kvintet, 1862 smyčc. kvartet")
  19. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("Tyto skladby ... tvoří D. přípravné období bez ohlasu na veřejnosti.")
  20. ^ Schönzeler, pg. 46
  21. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("... a druhé znění opery Král a uhlíř, které neobsahuje ani jeden společný takt s pův. versí.")
  22. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("... vyloučil ze svých skladeb více než polovici.")
  23. ^ Burghauser (2006), p. 22 ("... u sv. Vojtěcha na Novém Městě pražském, kde byl ředitelem kůru Josef Förster, otec Josefa Bohuslava Foerstera.")
  24. ^ Burghauser (2006), p. 35 ("Došlo k němu z podnětu Eduarda Hanslicka ... a sděluje mu, že se Brahms jako člen poroty o jeho díla velmi zajímá.")
  25. ^ Clapham, p. 71.
  26. ^ Burghauser, Jarmil; Joachimová, Zoja (translation) (2003) (in Czech). Dvořák: Symphonies 4-5-6 (sleevenote) (CD). Václav Neumann, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Prague: Supraphon. p. 5. SU 3704-2 032.
  27. ^ Robert Layton, Dvořák Symphonies and Concertos, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), 30-31.
  28. ^ A. Peter Brown, The Second Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony: Brahms, Bruckner, Dvořák, Mahler, and Selected Contemporaries, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 373.
  29. ^ Steinberg, pp. 140
  30. ^ Steinberg, pp. 140–141
  31. ^ a b New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: "Dvořák, Antonín"
  32. ^ Burghauser (2006), p. 82 ("Dvořákova rodina s přáteli na dvoře domu v New Yorku v roce 1893 [zleva manželka Anna, syn Antonín, Sadie Siebertová, Josef Jan Kovařík, matka Sadie Siebertové, dcera Otilie, Antonín Dvořák].")
  33. ^ (40°44′08.5″N 73°59′14″W / 40.735694°N 73.98722°W / 40.735694; -73.98722) at the southeast corner of the intersection with Irving Place, a block east of Union Square
  34. ^ a b Naureckas, Jim. "New York Songlines – Seventeenth Street." June 13, 2006
  35. ^ Beckerman, Michael. Henry Krehbiel, Antonín Dvořák, and the Symphony "From the New World".
  36. ^ De Lerma, Dominique-Rene. "African Heritage Symphonic Series". Liner note essay. Cedille Records CDR055.
  37. ^ (40°44′02.5″N 73°58′56.7″W / 40.734028°N 73.982417°W / 40.734028; -73.982417)
  38. ^ Horowitz, Joseph. "Music; Czech Composer, American Hero", The New York Times, February 10, 2002. Accessed November 3, 2007. "In 1991, the New York City Council was petitioned by Beth Israel Hospital to permit the demolition of a small row house at 327 East 17th Street, once the home of Antonín Dvořák."
  39. ^ Editorial. "Dvorak's Homecoming, With Music", New York Times, Sept. 7, 1997 (concerning when the house was removed)
  40. ^ Editorial. "Topics of the Times, The New World at City Hall", New York Times, June 23, 1991 (concerning the circumstances under which the house was removed)
  41. ^ a b Schönzeler, p. 174
  42. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 278 ("... nastoupil opět jako prof. pražské kons. [od X. 1895]")
  43. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 279 ("Doma svým dílem přímo vyvolal existenci Českého kvarteta [1891] ...")
  44. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 278 ("Jsou to opery Čert a Káča [1898/99], Rusalka [1900] a Armida [1902/03], které spolu s Jakobínem a Tvrdými palicemi tvoří vrchol jeho hudebně dramat. práce.")
  45. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 278 ("... zakotvilo jeho dílo ve Vídni zásluhou H. Richtra i G. Mahlera, v Německu vlivem H. Bülowa a Jos. Joachima; v Anglii se o ně zasloužil Jos. Barnby a Alex. Mackenzie.")
  46. ^ Burghauser (2006), p. 105 ("Dvořákův pohřeb je opět i národní manifestací.")
  47. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 278 (since November, 1897) ("Po Brahmsově smrti stal se D. členem poroty pro státní ceny [od XI. 1897]")
  48. ^ Černušák (1963), pp. 278–279 ("... s Jar. Vrchlickým byl jmenován členem panské sněmovny ve Vídni [IV. 1901]")
  49. ^ Honolka (2004), p. 108
  50. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 279 ("Premiéra Rusalky ... a D. šedesátka byly počátkem rozsáhlých oslav v cizině i doma ...")
  51. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 279 ("D. se rozloučil s ČF jako dirig. [4. IV. 1900]")
  52. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 279 ("Tehdy churavěl a neúčastnil se I. českého hud. festivalu v Praze, na němž prov. jeho oratorium Sv. Ludmila [3. IV. 1904], houslový konc. a s Fr. Ondříčkem a Novosvětská symf.")
  53. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 279 ("Zemřel, raněn mozkovou mrtvicí ...")
  54. ^ Schönzeler, p. 194
  55. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("Skladatelské počátky D. vycházejí slohově z Beethovena a Schuberta, později z Wagnera a Liszta.")
  56. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("... vliv novoromantiků vrcholí kolem 1870 [první opera Alfred, smyčc. kvartety D, e a B]")
  57. ^ a b Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("Základem mu byl lidový tanec a píseň česká, moravská i ruská a rytmické prvky i ráz tanců slovenských [odzemek], polských [mazur, polonéza], ruských [dumka] i jihoslovan. [srbské kolo].")
  58. ^ Burghauser (2006), p. 16 ("... třetí věta ... kvartetu D dur je celá vybudována na písni 'Hej, Slované', která ... byla rakouskou vládou zakázána a její prozpěvování na veřejnosti přísně trestáno.")
  59. ^ Černušák (1963), p. 277 ("Příznačnými díly tohoto období jsou vedle Slovan. tanců tři Slovanské rapsodie [1878], orch. Polonéza [1879] ... kvartet Es s Dumkou ... a zvl. symfonie D s Furiantem [1880] a opera Dimitrij.")
  60. ^ E.g his 1894 article on Schubert (from The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Vol. XLVIII, No. 3 (July 1894), pp. 341–46.
  61. ^ Burghauser Catalogue
  62. ^ a b c Clapham (1995), 778
  63. ^, November 7, 2007
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ Edward Rothstein (March 24, 1992). "Review/Music; The American Symphony Takes On a New Role". New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  67. ^ Stabat mater dolorosa
  68. ^ Jarmil Burghauser: Sleeve note to the recording of Requiem by Karel Ančerl and Czech Philharmonic
  69. ^
  70. ^ The Lives of the Great Composers, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, revised edition, 1980
  71. ^ Clapham, Dvořák, musician and craftsman (1966), page 167.
  72. ^ Clapham (1979), 158.
  73. ^ Clapham (1969) p.163
  74. ^ Clapham (1969) p.269
  75. ^ Smaczny (2003), 370
  76. ^ Smaczny (2003), 370-1
  77. ^ Smaczny (2003), 378-80
  78. ^ Smaczny (2003), 380
  79. ^ Beckerman, Michael: New Worlds of Dvořák: Searching in America for the Composer's Inner Life. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. ISBN 978-0-393-04706-6. Online review of related academic event at
  80. ^ a b Šourek (2006), p. VIII


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