Antonín Dvořák (internationally known also as Dvorak) is one of the most famous Czech composers and also the most internationally played one! Today we celebrate the 180th anniversary of his birth.
Dvorak was born on September 8, 1841 in Nelahozeves (22 km north from Prague) as Antonín Leopold Dvořák. His work is part of the repertoire of the orchestras all around the world. And famous works he has many – symphonies, instrumental-vocal works, choir music, operas…
Today we mark the 180th anniversary of Dvořák’s birth and we’d like to invite you to watch this beautiful virtual recording made by the Czech choir Gloria Brunensis featuring not only Dvořák’s work but also the work of art students commemorating this famous Czech composer:
Dvorak’s Life and Career
He was the first born of nine children born into a butcher’s family. From age 6 Dvorak attended violin classes and in his teen years he learnt to play the piano and organ. He studied the latter at the Organ school in Prague (now part of the Prague conservatory). He played the viola in the orchestra of the Provisional Theatre under the conductor Bedřich Smetana, another one of the most famous Czech composers.
He gave piano classes to earn some extra income and that is how he met his wife. Although at first he fell in love with her older sister, she didn’t feel the same about him and married a royal. Dvorak then turned his attention to her younger sister Anna (also his student) whom he married in 1873. They had nine children although sadly, the first three died at a very young age. Some of the surviving children pursued a music career.
Dvorak started composing in 1861, without any great response though. After being noticed by a great figure of the Hambuerguese-Viennese Romantic music era Johannes Brahms, he was recommended to an important music editorial in Berlin. From that moment his career sky-rocketed. He became popular with the local royalty first, in 1884 he was invited to London to conduct his Stabat Mater in the Royal Albert Hall and Tchaikovsky invited him to conduct in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Dvorak was the first director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, where he was hired to “discover American music”. To reach this objective he used the fusion of Native-American and Afro-American music. He was introduced into the Afro-American spirituals by one of his students, Harry T. Burleigh (one of the first Afro-American composers). However, the economic depression cut Dvořák’s salary short and he returned home in 1895, after only 3 years in the USA. Another reason for his return was also his rising popularity in Europe and the fact that he was homesick.
Back home he taught at the Prague Conservatory of Music where he helped the career of several significant composers. His 60th birthday was celebrated nation-wide and the Austrian emperor Franz Josef I. awarded him the knight title Ritter von Dvořák. Dvorak died on May 1, 1904 and he’s burried in Prague’s Vyšehrad.
Most Famous Work
There are many many works that reached fame all over the world, here are just some you might know.
New World Symphony
Song to the Moon (Rusalka)