The Bohemia into which Dvorák was born on 8 September 1841, in a village near Prague, was one facing rapid change. Like many from a poor rural environment Dvorák followed a natural drift towards Prague. Dvorák’s musicality was evident early on and his family supported him all through his musical training.
After graduating from the Prague Organ School in 1859, however, he faced grinding poverty. He eventually joined the Provisional Theatre Orchestra as a viola player (1862–71), performing in a huge range of operas. During these ‘years in the galleys’ he wrote two symphonies, string quartets and the opera Alfred, though he only began to make an impact on Prague’s musical salons after the success of his patriotic cantata, The Heirs of the White Mountain (1872).
Growing fame and the award of five consecutive government grants prompted huge productivity: operas, symphonic works and chamber music poured out of him, sharing such characteristics as appealing melody, classically oriented development and a consciously popular tone. The latter resulted in international acclaim for his Moravian Duets and Slavonic Dances (both 1878).
Brahms’s friendship won him a German publisher, and concert societies across Europe and America began programming his music. A series of trips to England resulted in major commissions, including the Seventh Symphony (1884–5) for the Philharmonic Society, and The Spectre’s Bride and Requiem for the 1885 and 1891 Birmingham Festivals. Dvorák continued to compose operas, including two masterpieces, Dimitrij (1881–2) and The Jacobin (1887–8).
In the late 1880s he turned to more experimental and inclusive modes of composition, notably in the Eighth Symphony (1889) and the ‘Dumky’ Trio (1890–91). Further shifts in style occurred as a result of his stay in America as Director of the National Conservatory in New York (1892–5).
The huge popularity of the works of this period, notably the ‘New World’ Symphony and ‘American’ Quartet, was founded on approachability, inspired lyricism and an easily apprehended clarity of outline. On returning to Prague in 1895, Dvorák devoted himself first to symphonic poems and then to operas, the greatest of which was Rusalka (1900).
Though among the most popular of classical composers, Dvorák is one of the least well understood; his early work is dismissed as being overly neo-Romantic, a judgement which does little justice to the remarkable originality of much of it, or to the startling confidence of the Third Symphony (1873).
His compositional technique (securely founded on an education strongly resembling that of his 18th-century predecessors), his genius for memorable melody and his independent imagination resulted in one of the larger and more consistently enjoyable compositional outputs of the 19th century.
Profile by Jan Smaczny ©
- Clips (20)Latest ClipDvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor
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- Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minorhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mb1v2.jpg2015-05-02T08:01:00ZWith Narek Hakhnazaryan (cello) and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero. Live from the Royal Festival Hall.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p02qh94pSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 42 mins
Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor
- Dvorak: Symphony no 9 in E minor Op 95 (From the New World)http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02j91yz.jpg2015-02-27T15:27:00ZOrchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Adam Fischer, perform Dvorak: Symphony no 9 in E minor Op 95 (From the New World) live from The Anvil, Basingstoke.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p02kywpmSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 45 mins
Dvorak: Symphony no 9 in E minor Op 95 (From the New World)
- Dvorak: String Quartet in F, Op.96 'American'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02gn8f8.jpg2015-01-10T15:21:00ZRobert Philip compares recordings of Dvorak's much-loved String Quartet known as the American Quartet, and makes a personal recommendation.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p02gn8ftSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 43 mins
Dvorak: String Quartet in F, Op.96 'American'
- Dvorak's relationship with the British Isleshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0263173.jpg2014-09-05T12:00:00ZDonald Macleod explores Dvorak's relationship with the British Isleshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p02631tlSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 53 mins
Dvorak's relationship with the British Isles
- Dvorak's letters to the Royal Philharmonic Societyhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0263173.jpg2014-09-05T11:00:00ZDonald visited the British Library, where he examined the Royal Philharmonic Society's archive of letters from Dvorak with the BL's Curator of Music Manuscripts, Sandra Tuppen.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p02634jmSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 20 mins
Dvorak's letters to the Royal Philharmonic Society
- Dvorak: Symphony No. 7http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vzz5g.jpg2014-07-09T16:21:00ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Andrew McGregor talks about Dvorak's 7th symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p022hsdhSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 3 mins
Dvorak: Symphony No. 7
- Dvorak: Symphony No. 9http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sx666.jpg2014-07-09T16:14:00ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Andrew McGregor talks about Dvorak's 9th symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p022hs75Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 3 mins
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
- History of the Serenade Part 2http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01ztd37.jpg2014-05-26T19:15:00ZExploring the history of the serenade, focusing on the form after Mozart.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01ztd3sSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 42 mins
History of the Serenade Part 2
- Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s8p55.jpg2014-05-08T09:50:00ZCharles Hazlewood conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra in an exploration of Antonín Dvorak's masterpiece, his Symphony No. 9, subtitled "From the New World".http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01ypy0cSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 53 mins
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'
- Dvorak: Violin Concertohttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s8rgn.jpg2014-05-08T09:31:00ZJack Liebeck joins Stephen Johnson to explore Dvorak's Violin Concerto.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01ypxbxSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 28 mins
Dvorak: Violin Concerto
- Dvorak: Overtureshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s8q43.jpg2014-05-08T09:11:00ZStephen Johnson reveals links in Dvorak's In Nature's Realm, Carnival and Othello.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01ypwdlSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 18 mins
- Dvorak: The Golden Spinning Wheelhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s8qkv.jpg2014-05-08T08:59:00ZStephen Johnson looks at Dvorak's tone poem, The Golden Spinning Wheel.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01ypvxzSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 30 mins
Dvorak: The Golden Spinning Wheel
- Dvorak: American String Quintethttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s8pbs.jpg2014-05-08T08:46:00ZThe Skampa Quartet and viola player Garfield Jackson join Stephen Johnson to explore Dvorak's American String Quintet, written in the three years the composer spent in America.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01ypvbdSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 42 mins
Dvorak: American String Quintet
- Dvorak's Operashttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01yqb0g.jpg2014-05-01T12:27:00ZDonald Macleod explores Dvorak's long and frustrating career in opera.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01y9zmmSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 50 mins
- Dvorak in Americahttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01y9y8k.jpg2014-05-01T12:08:00ZDonald Macleod gives a full account of Dvorak's famous stay in America from 1892 to 1895.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01y9y9sSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 50 mins
Dvorak in America
- Dvorak: Slavonic Danceshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w9zz6.jpg2014-03-27T13:38:00ZRob Cowan compares the available recordings of Dvorak's first set of Slavonic Dances (Op.46) which he orchestrated from his original set of dances for piano duet.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01w9zzfSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 42 mins
Dvorak: Slavonic Dances
- Dvorak: String Quartet Op.106http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w6svt.jpg2014-03-25T17:37:00ZJan Smaczny provides a personal recommendation from the available recordings of Dvorak's last string quartet.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01w6sw0Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 35 mins
Dvorak: String Quartet Op.106
- Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w657r.jpg2014-03-25T11:04:00ZHoward Goodall and Suzy Klein discuss Dvorak's New World Symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01w6584Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 4 mins
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'
- Dvorak: Symphony No. 8http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w5811.jpg2014-03-24T18:13:00ZRob Cowan considers the available recordings of Dvorak's 8th Symphony and recommends a personal favouritehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01w582nSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 39 mins
Dvorak: Symphony No. 8
- Dvorak: Cello Concertohttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tsc9j.jpg2014-03-12T18:30:00ZJan Smaczny recommends a version from recordings of Dvorak's Cello Concertohttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/819eaeb2-8dd8-48a5-ad07-0bcd137985ef?clipfocus=p01tsc9qSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 38 mins
Dvorak: Cello Concerto
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