Antonín Dvořák

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  • I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.
  • In the negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay or what you will. It is music that suits itself to any [[mood or any purpose. There is nothing in the whole age of composition that cannot be supplied with themes from this source.]]
  • It cannot be emphasized too strongly that art, as such, does not "pay," to use an American expression – at least, not in the beginning – and that the art that has to pay its own way is apt to become vitiated and cheap.
  • The music of the people is like a rare and lovely flower growing amidst encroaching weeds. Thousands pass it, while others trample it under foot, and thus the chances are that it will perish before it is seen by the one discriminating spirit who will prize it above all else. The fact that no one has as yet arisen to make the most of it does not prove that nothing is there.
  • Mozart is sweet sunshine.


Antonín Dvořák was born near Prague on 8 September 1841, died 1 May 1904. He was a Czech composer. Dvořák frequently employed aspects, specifically rhythms, of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. 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’.

Dvořák displayed his musical gifts at an early age, being an apt violin student from age six. He first studied the organ, but made no progress in his career, so he worked as a viola player in a dance orchestra and then theatre orchestras, which allowed him to hear and study the music of others. He began composing and submitted his pieces for competitions, winning several, and eventually Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who soon afterward commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, and the sheet music (of the original piano 4-hands version) had excellent sales, and Dvořák’s international reputation at last was launched.

Dvořák’s first piece of a religious nature, his setting of Stabat Mater, was premiered in Prague in 1880, and Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory in 1891. In 1892, he moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. While in the United States, Dvořák wrote his two most successful orchestral works. The Symphony From the New World spread his reputation worldwide. His Cello Concerto is one of the most highly regarded of all cello concerti. But, shortfalls in payment of his salary and increasing recognition in Europe, plus an onset of homesickness all led him to leave the United States in 1895 and return to Bohemia.

Nine of his operas have librettos in Czech and were intended to convey Czech national spirit, as were some of his choral works. He has been described as "arguably the most versatile... composer of his time".