Antonin Dvorak

1841 - 1904

Antonín Leopold Dvořák (8 September 1841 – 1 May 1904) was a Czech composer. After Bedřich Smetana, he was the second Czech composer to achieve worldwide recognition. Following Smetana's nationalist example, 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’.

Dvorak was born in a small village on the banks of the river Vltava, approximately 45 miles north of Prague. He left school aged 11 to become an apprentice butcher, and the following year was sent to Zlonce to learn German. Most of his time, however, he spent on music lessons, learning the organ, viola, piano, and basic composition. His interest in music was such that, despite misgivings, his father eventually allowed him to enrol at the Prague Organ School in 1857. There Dvorak received the strict training of a church musician, but after classes attended as many orchestral concerts as he could, enjoying especially the music of contemporary composers such as Wagner and Schumann.
 

After graduating in 1859, Dvorak became principal violist in the new Provisional Theatre orchestra, conducted after 1866 by Sinetana. The need to supplement his income by teaching left Dvorak with limited free time, and in 1871 he gave up the orchestra m order to compose. He fell in love with one of his pupils and wrote a song cycle, Cypress trees, expressing his anguish at her marriage to another man. He soon overcame his despondency, however, and in 1873 he married her sister Anna Cermakova.
 

In 1874 Dvorak entered no fewer than 15 works — including his Third symphony — for the Austrian National prize. He won and received a welcome cash prize and, perhaps more importantly, the admiration and support of Brahms, who was one of the judges. Brahms put Dvorak in touch with his own publisher, Simrock, who commissioned the popular first set of Slavonic dances in 1878. These robust pieces, notable for sudden mood switches from exuberant dance tunes to dark and melancholy melodies, were played not only in the musical centres of Europe, but also in the United States and England.
 

From this point on Dvorak's fame escalated. In 1884 he received a warm welcome in London, the first of nine visits. Several of his major works, including the Seventh and Eighth symphonies, were written for performance in England. Often regarded as Dvorak's greatest work, the Seventh symphony powerfully expresses a mood of tragedy through solemn music overlaid with ominous and foreboding overtones. In contrast, the more relaxed Eighth symphony makes use of folk melodies, conveyed with rhythmic verve and colourful orchestration.
 

Dvorak was appointed Professor of Composition at the Prague Conservatoire in 1891, but soon after took up the offer of Directorship of the National Conservatury of Music in New York.

He stayed for three years in the United States, spending summer holidays in Spillville, a Czech-speakmg community in Iowa. It is from this period that some of his best-loved music comes, notably the Symphony No. 9 (''From the New World") and the American string quartet. Both these works make use of themes influenced by American Indian folk melodies and Negro spirituals. As Dvorak later admitted, something of their melancholy can be attributed to the homesickness he felt during his time in America. Just before leaving in 1895 he produced his last major symphonic work, the remarkable Cello concerto, which in its expressive power and melodic beauty rivals even the Seventh symphony.

 

Returning to Prague with some relief, Dvorak resumed his post at the Prague Conservatoire and m 1901 became its director. For the last three years of his life he devoted the greater part of his creative energies to working on symphonic poems and operas. He died in 1904.
 

Dvorak's importance lies partly in his nationalist outlook. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Bohemia (later part of the Czech Republic) - long suppressed under German rule - fought for its political and cultural independence.
 

Dvorak, like Smetana and Janacek, consciously looked to Bohemian folklore for artistic inspiration, imitating traditional melodies, as in the Slavonic dances, or using traditional legends, as in his best-known opera, Rusalka, composed in 1900. Dvorak exercised a great gift for absorbing folk styles and reproducing them in the context of the Classical tradition.

Key Works

Symphony No 7 in D minor, Op 70

00:00 Allegro maestoso
11:20 Poco adagio
21:14 Scherzo. Vivace - Poco meno mosso
28:54 Finale. Allegro

Symphony No 8 in G major

I. Allegro con brio (00:00)
II. Adagio (09:31)
III. Allegretto grazioso (21:11)
IV. Allegro, ma non troppo (26:49)

Symohony No. 9 in E minor op. 95 "From The New World"

(0:37) 1st mvt (Adagio, Allegro Molto)
(10:42) 2nd mvt (Largo)
(23:30) 3rd mvt (Scherzo, Molto Vivace)
(32:07) 4rth mvt (Allegro con fuoco)

Piano Concerto in G minor, Opus 33

1. Allegro agitato 0:00
2. Andante sostenuto 18:27
3. Allegro con fuoco 27:18

Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.53

I. Allegro ma non troppo (00:00)
II. Adagio ma non troppo (10:37)
III. Finale: Allegro giocoso ma non troppo (19:36)

Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191

1. Allegro 0:00
2. Adagio, ma non troppo 16:05
3. Finale: Allegro moderato - Andante - Allegro vivo 28:25

 Carnival Overture op. 92

Serenade in E major Op. 22

1. Moderato
2. Tempo di Valse
3. Scherzo: Vivace
4. Larghetto
5. Finale: Allegro vivace

Dvořák's gravesite in the Vyšehrad cemetery

Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 & Op. 72

01 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 -- Furiant 0:01
02 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 -- Dumka 04:00
03 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 -- Polka 08:51
04 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 -- Sousedská 14:01
05 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 - Skocná. 21:06
06 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 -- Sousedská 24:13
07 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 - Skocná. 28:44
08 - Slavonic Dances 1, Op.46 -- Furiant 31:58
09 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Odzemek 35:49
10 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Starodávný 39:52
11 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Skocná 45:39
12 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Dumka 49:06
13 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Spacirk 54:46
14 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Starodávný 57:17
15 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 - Srbske Kolo 1:01:18
16 - Slavonic Dances 2, Op.72 -- Sousedská 1:04:31

Romance for Violin and Orchestra in f minor op. 11

String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 "American" 

00:00 - Allegro ma non troppo
09:08 - Lento
16:14 - Molto vivace
20:00 - Finale. Vivace ma non troppo

I. Quartet/Chorus: Stabat mater, 1:05
II. Quartet: Quis est homo, 18:03
III. Chorus: Eja mater, 28:12
IV. Basso/Chorus: Fac, ut ardeat cor meum, 35:32
V. Chorus: Tui nati vulnerati, 44:07
VI. Tenor/Chorus: Fac me vere tecum flere, 48:16
VII. Chorus: Virgo viginum praeclara, 55:22
VIII. Duo: Fac ut portem Christi mortem, 1:01:13
IX: Alto: Inflammatus et accensus: 1:05:50
X: Quartet/Chorus: Quando corpus morietur, 1:11:19

"Stabat mater" für Soli, Chor und Orchester, op. 58 

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