Happy Birthday Antonin Dvořák!

Happy Birthday Dvořák!

Today is the birthday of Antonin Dvořák, one of the first Czech composers to reach worldwide recognition.

Dvořák was born in Nelahozeves, a Bohemian (now Czech) village on the Vltava River north of Prague in 1841. He was the first of 14 children, 8 of whom survived infancy. He displayed musical prowess from an early age, being a keen Violin student from the age of 6. The first public performances of his works were in 1872.

He later submitted a score of his First Symphony for a prize competition judged by Johannes Brahms in Germany, but didn’t win. The manuscript for the submission was actually lost until decades later. Dvořák frequently used rhythms and other aspects of Bohemian folk music in his works. His best known work is “The New World Symphony”, which he wrote in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. This orchestral work was a major milestone in the validation of American or “New World” music being used as inspiration for classical compositions.

In 1895 Dvořák returned to his native Bohemia from the United States. In March 1904 he was forced to leave a rehearsal of his opera Armida because of illness. The following month he was due to attend the first Czech Musical Festival, which had a programme consisting almost entirely of his own music. Still ill, he was unable to attend the festival. After several weeks of illness, he died on 1st May 1904 at the age of 62, leaving many unfinished works.

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