Antonin Dvorak

 (1841 - 1904) made so special is that he was able to take folk tradition that people see everyday yet do not notice and turn it into music that people would listen to and enjoy.

Dvorak was born in Nelahozeves near Prague where he spent most of his life. He studied music in Prague's Organ School at the end of the 1850s, and through the 1860s played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theatre Orchestra which was from 1866 conducted by Bedøich Smetana.

From 1892 to 1895, Dvoøák was director of the National Conservatory in New York City. The Conservatory was founded by a wealthy socialite, Jeannette Thurber, who wanted a well-known composer as director in order to lend prestige to her institution. She wrote to Dvoøák, asking him to accept the position, and he agreed, providing that she were willing to meet his conditions: that talented Native American and African-American students, who could not afford the tuition, must be admitted for free. She agreed to his conditions, and he sailed to America.

Also while in the USA he heard a performance of a cello concerto by the composer Victor Herbert. He was so excited by the possibilities of the cello and orchestra combination displayed in this concerto that he wrote a cello concerto of his own, the Cello Concerto in B minor (1895). Since then the concerto he wrote has grown in popularity and today it is frequently performed. He also left an unfinished work, the Cello Concerto in A major (1865), which was completed and orchestrated by the German composer Günter Raphael between 1925 and 1929.

Dvoøák was a colorful personality. In addition to music, there were two particular passions in his life: locomotive engines, and the breeding of pigeons. He eventually returned to Prague where he was director of the conservatoire from 1901 until his death in 1904. He was interred in the Vysehrad cemetery in Prague.

Dvorak Musical Style

DvoĹ™ák wrote in a variety of forms: his nine symphonies generally stick to classical models that Beethoven would have recognised, but he also worked in the newly developed symphonic poem. Many of his works also show the influence of Czech genuine folk music, both in terms of elements such as rhythms and melodic shapes; perhaps the best known examples are the two sets of Slavonic Dances and the overwhelming majority of his songs, but we can find echoes of that influence also in his major choral works. His interest in nationalist ideas carried over to his work in the United States. DvoĹ™ák 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); songs; choral music; and piano music.

Tags: | Czech | Art | Music | Antonin Dvorak |


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