Classical Innovators: Antonín Dvořák
by Liz Colville
Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) was a Bohemian (Czech) composer whose music showed the influence of major predecessors—Wagner and Brahms, to name two—as well as folk music. Dvořák was the son of a village butcher and grew up working in his father's shop, learning the violin before taking up other instruments in adolescence.
Learn more about the composer from a biography at Classical Archives that outlines his early life, foray into the musical scene in Prague and multiple trips to England, where Dvořák found great success. You'll learn that one of his earliest works, "Cypress Trees," was inspired by his being unlucky in love.
Download clips of Dvořák's work at Classic Cat, which provides free mp3s of classical music, including samples of "Four Choruses," one of his best-known works, as well as parts of "Stabat Mater" and "Humoresques." "Stabat Mater" is a traditional Roman Catholic hymn in Latin that has been interpreted by several composers throughout the ages. A humoresque is a popular form of classical music, somewhat less serious than the type of music Dvořák generally wrote; his oeuvre included operas, string concertos and several piano trios and quartets.
For an in-depth look at Dvořák's works visit Fuguemasters, a slightly dated but worthy site that provides historical context for many of Dvořák's compositions. Excerpts from letters from Johannes Brahms and other anecdotes make this a very interesting read.
Dvořák spent three years in America. He lived in a small, mostly Czech-populated town in Iowa, preferring it to the bustle of New York City. Read more from Allmusic's biography and browse recordings of Dvořák's music there.
In 2003, Michael Beckerman published a book, "New Worlds of Dvorák," that assessed the impact of Dvorák's American sojourn, which inspired the composition of his "New World" Symphony. Read Beckerman's New York Times article on the subject, written just ahead of his book's release, and two reviews of the book.