Antonin Dvorak

Classical Music / Composer's Datebook: September 8

Brief biography of Czech composer Antonin Dvorák, most internationally celebrated composer of 19th century Bohemia, now Czech republic. He is best known for Symphony No.9, "From the New World" and his nationalistic outlook by using folklore and traditional legends.    

Antonín (Leopold) Dvořák, Czech composer with the widest international renown due to his masterpiece Symphony No.9, 'From the New World,'  is equally known for incorporating folk music into his classical works by using Bohemian and Slavonic folk songs and dances. 
Dvorák was born in Nelahozeves, Czech Republic on September 8, 1841, Following the family tradition, he was trained as a butcher, something that did not suit well with him, but he finally convinced his father to allow him to pursue music especially singing, violin, piano and organ. He studied with Antonin Liehmann, then at the Prague Organ School. Only 16 years old, he played viola in cafes and the organ in a mental asylum in order to earn monies. A capable viola player, he joined the band that became the nucleus of the new Provisional Theatre orchestra. Antonin Dvorák was an amiable family man and lived a happy life. 

In 1862, Smetana established the National Theatre of Prague. Dvorák joined it as a viola player staying for about 10 years. He left to give him more time for composition, at the same time taking a position of church organist.  

International recognition came with his two sets of Slavonic Dances and when he became director of the National Conservatory in New York for three years from 1892, returning to Prague and eventually became head of the conservatory there.  He also became a close friend of Brahms who had much influence on him.
Dvorák wrote symphonies, tone poems, operas including Rusalka (1900), his best-known based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, large-scale choral works, the Carnival and other overtures, violin and cello concertos, chamber music, piano pieces and songs.
His most famous work Symphony no.9, entitled From the New World (1893), reflects his interest in American folk themes, including black and native American. He was not as successful as an opera composer, except for the romantic fairy-tale Rusalka, presented three years before his death. He died in Prague, age 62.
Dvorák's Romantic music extends the classical tradition of Beethoven and Brahms and displays the influence of Czech folk music. Along with countrymen Bedrich Smetana and Leos Janacek, Antonin Dvorák, he shared Czech music nationalism and patriotism. He was also a master of symphonic music along with German symphonic music tradition of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms. 

Chamber Music

Antonín Dvořák's Piano Quintet in A major, Op 81. Performed by Selby & Friends (2013) at James O. Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, on 18 February 2013. Artists: Elizabeth Layton (violin); Grace Clifford (violin); Tobias Breider (viola): Clancy Newman (cello): Kathryn Selby (piano).

Among Dvorák's Major Symphonic Works
Symphony No.1 "Bells of Zionice" 1865
Symphony No.5 in F major 1875
Symphonic Variations for Orchestra 1877
Symphony No.6 in D major 1880
Symphony No.7 in D minor 1885
Symphony No.8 in G major 1889
Symphony No.9 "From the New World" 1893

Recommended CD
Symphony No.9, 'From the New World' – Deutsche Grammophon, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Levine

Image Credit:

Karadar / Public Domain 

Video Credit: 
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 "From The New World" / Karajan · Vienna Philarmonic.  Canal de Josep489.  Accessed 8 September 2016.  

A-Z of Music IMP BV (1996)
Music by Frank Granville Barker, Windward (1981) The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, Macmillan Press (1994)

(Note: This is an abridged version of an article I originally published at in 2007. / Tel) 

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