Report by Sheila 1963 for University conducting class Book by Alec Robertson Collier Books 1943
Antonin Leopold Dvorak was born on September 6, 1841, in the small village of Nelshozeves in Bohemia which lies on the banks of the Vitava River. Anna Zdenek was his mother and Frantesek, the village inn keeper, his father. There were four sons besides Dvorak and three daughters.
When he was eight years old Antonin went to the village school for two compulsory years teaching. Then he was sent to Zlonice to learn German. Liehmann was the headmaster there, and he taught Dvorak organ as well as German. In later years Liehmann was the model for Benda, the lovable school-organist in The Jacobin. German became a poor second to organ for Antonin,
and so he was sent to the Sudeten-German Ceska Kamenica so he would concentrate on language.
The elder Dvorak became bankrupt, and it was all he could do to finish off Antonin's German lessons.
Antonin came home and began to study with Liehmann again, but Liehmann urged that the boy should be sent to Prague where there would be greater opportunities. Pan Dvorak was firm in his refusal.
He simply could not afford it and demanded of Antonin, You must be a butcher, and succeed to your grandfather's trade.
Antonin matured as a musician and sat at the first violin desk or with the violas(this was a favorite instrument) whatever he prefered, in Liehmann's orchestra. When his uncle saw he was really set on being a musician, he promised to help him; and his father finally gave consent.
He was sent to the Organ School in Prague which was absorbed into the Prague Conservatory of Music which has been called the nursery of Czech composers in spite of the German direction. There he was almost entirely in the hands of his countrymen for many of his professors were Czechs.
Any musical diet that included Wagner was dangerous for impressionable youngsters; however, by day Dvorak kept a respectable company with the classics, but by night he disported himself with the siren Wagner and lost his head to that music.
It took him ten or more years to shake off the spell completely enough to absorb what he wanted of Wagner without being absorbed by him.
The director reported that Dvorak was weak in theory, but his weakness amounted to his use of false relations and consecutive fifths. After he received his certificate stating he was admirably fitted to fulfill the duties of organist and choir master, he joined Karel Komsak's orchestra, as a viola player.
Dvorak was always silent and reserved, he neither asked for not received advice; and the extent of his ambitions to succeed as a composer, which was firm and deep rooted, would probably have surprised his few friends.
He had the sense not to submit to a public keyed up for works by Czech composers anything that he felt was unlikely to make the right impression. He wanted to put Bohemia on the European musical map.
During his stay at Anger, he wrote one work which he reguarded with great affection. It was a cycle of songs called The Cypresses.
Antonin fell in love with Josefa, but she gave him no encouragement so he married her sister Anna who became a useful wife.
Dvorak caught opera as adults catch measles and never got over it. He wrote Alfred the Great, a story he found in an old German almanac, and it was a failure. In 1912 Simrock published A Dramatic Overture which was really the overture to Alfred.
A triumphantly successful work was his Hymnus based on The Heirs of the White Mountain which summons the Czech people defeated at the battle of the White Mountain to love their native land. Later in September, he wrote a piano forte quintet in his favorite key of A Major. Then he wrote his Symphony in E flat Major which won him the Austria State Prize.
Dvorak and Anna found a modest but cozy home of their own, and he took the post of organist at the church of St. Adalbert.
The King and Collier was written in 1871 and rewritten in 1874 and finally revised in 1887. Then he wrote a comic opera in one act The Pigheaded Peasants which was not produced until seven years after it was written and then badly staged.
Dvorak's first chamber music to appear in print was his sixth Quartet.
He sent his E flat Major Symphony and some other works to a commission of the Austrian Empire and was awarded four hundred gold florins.
Brahms exercised considerable influence over Dvorak and for the most part admirable, though it is fortunate that he did not persuade Dvorak to come and live in Vienna for regularly prescribed innoculations against Wagnerism.
In 1891 Dvorak received an honorary doctorate at Cambridge, and later composed the Moravian Duets which brought him wide fame. His Fifth Symphony was revised in 1877 and dedicated to Hans Van Bulow.
After the first act of his opera Wanda was written his eldest daughter died, and this cast a shadow over his Pianoforte Trio in G minor and the String Quartet in E Major.
He returned to song writing, and a Prague wholesalers wife Mme. Neff prevailed on him to compose more. Thirteen of the songs were privately published.
Dvorak moved and gave up his organist's post to devote himself to composition.He composed the Symphonic Variations for large Orchestra and sent the score to Hans Richter.
With the String Quartet in D minor, Op.34, composed in December 1877, as a token of gratitude for Brahm's interest in his work, Dvorak passed from his formative first period to that of his richest creative activity.
Success never spoiled Dvorak; he was a simple, rather obstinate, God-fearing man. He went for early morning walks to the railway station for he was facinated by trains; and he took walks in the park to listen to the birds.
He wrote the Slavonic Dances, which were published by Simrock, and then the Three Slavonic Rhapsodies. He gave an option to Simrock on all his future compositions, but in 1881 Schlesinger published the Czech Suite in D, Op.39 which Dvorak cleverly gave a low opus number. He then wrote his Violin Concerto in A minor for Joachim.
Simrock wanted some more works and received eight waltzs and the Seven Gypsy Songs Following later was the Hussite Overture which solves a problem which still eludes theologians by quoting both Hussite and Catholic tune, and pointing the moral by ending with the national anthem.
On March 5, 1884, Dvorak set out with his friend Heinrich von Kaan, a pianist, and traveled to London. England welcomed the composer who had gotten away from the conventional music of the time. He was invited to conduct his works in a concert in St. James Hall.
Back in Bohemia Dvorak lost no time in realizing one of his dearest wishes, to have a cottage of his own in the country. He built a cottage on his brother-in-laws estate at Vysoka and found the village folk of Vysoka entirely congenial company.
He then wrote his Symphony in D minor Op.70 and it was a huge success. The work pleased conservatives and progressives and was declared to be more immediately appealing than Brahm's F Major.
Dvorak wrote The Jacobin and it had the usual success, underwent revision in the Dvorak manner and has rarely been heard outside Czechoslovakia.
Dvorak had been offered a professorship at the Prague Conservatoire by the Society for the Furtherance of Music in Bohemia and at the time had turned it down but in 1891 he accepted. His task was to bring his composition class up to the level of the instrumental music.
One of his students spoke of him as Sometimes he's a comrade; then again he's a god. His professional duties caused no interuption in his creative work.
Mrs. Jeanette M. Thurber wanted a big name for her National Conservatory in New York and was prepared to pay for it. She asked Dvorak, but he declined. She didn't give up and wired from Paris that the post of director would be for two years, the official duties taking eight months, and he would have to conduct ten concerts of his own. The salary was $15,000 a year. He finally accepted; and he, his wife, and two of his children came
to the United States where the American public had been made aware of the great composer in their midst.
At the conservatory Dvorak had some good pupils, and he disliked the social functions he was to attend in the evenings. He accepted an invitation to visit Kovarik's home town of Spillville. There the natural senic beauty of the place appealed to him and the fact that his countrymen made up the town. Perhaps it was the quiet and peace of Spillville, but Dvorak offered Simrock the three overtures, The New World Symphony, The Quartet, the Quintet, and two lesser works
for 7,500 marks. Simrock asked Brahms to do the proof-reading and this delighted Dvorak.
He took five months leave to return to Vysoka. On his return to America, he was very homesick. On April 16, 1895 he left America for good. Artistically his second visit had been a success.
He took up his teaching at Prague. In his last nine years of creative life, he turned away from the classical highway and went into the romantic bypaths blazed by Liszt and Wagner. He composed five symphonic poems. Brahms died and this kept Dvorak from creativity for a while, until his final symphonic poem Pisen Bohatyvska.
The Viennese Society of the friends of Music made him an honorary member of the Austrian State Commission. On the occassion of Francis Joseph's Jubilee he was given the high and rare distinction of being awarded the Medal of Honour for the Arts and Sciences which only one other musician, Brahms, had before him. He was also made a life member of the Austrian house of Lords and was the first musician to receive this honor.
He became the director of the Prague Conservatory, but the business affairs were left to Professor Knittle.
Dvorak had an organic disease, uraenia and prograssive arteriosclerosis. On May 1, 1904, he was much better and was allowed to have luncheon at the table. He suddenly turned pale and was helped back to bed where he lost consciousness. At the age of 63 he had a brain-storke and died.
Antonin knew very early in his life that he wanted to be a musician and that he would have to fight for his goal. For ten years he submitted himself to intense artistic discipline, and he learned his trade through close study of great models. Dvorak spoke of his genius as the gift of God or God's voice. He wanted to give the world music that would be recognized as cosmopolitan first and Czech second. He was more race than nation conscious. He did not imitate folk tunes; he created the spirit of them.
Dvorak was called elemental. Perhaps they meant that the most constant quality of lyric melody is joyousness; it is full of a senuous happiness which goes beyond more freshness and gaiety and is without parallel in music. his music never sags; it has the gift of movement.
He was born with the song writer's feeling for the vocal phrase and his solo songs number fifty or more. One of his finest sets is the Seven Gypsy Songs.
He had no degree of antipathy for the piano and his thoughts are piano thoughts, but he rarely knew how to set them down. Much of his piano music was written to satisfy a publisher. The Futiant, Op12 No.2 is an example of how bad his piano writing was.
It can be said that all Dvorak's concertos were the result of requests:
Wihan asked for a cello concerto. The Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104 is masterly and beautiful, Joachim for a violin concerto, Slavkosky a piano concerto.
Dvorak's smaller orchestra works cover all the usual form. There are suites, serenades, variations, overtures, dances, and symphonic poems. For sheer charm the Serenade in E Major for Strings Op. 44 and The Czech Suite in D major Op.39 take a high place. His Slavonic Dances as stated by Luois Ehlert had heavenly naturalness. Dvorak's last will and testament in the purely orchestra field, took the form of five symphonic poems - Water Goblin, Noonday Witch, The Golden Spinning Wheel, The Wild Dove, & Hero's Song.
TheNoonday Witch is the most successful and the simplest.
Dvorak's last symphony was The new World in E minor Op.95. Its lucidity of exposition, its melodic fertility, its brilliant orchestration, and its undeniable surface charm hide undoubed weakness.
His chamber works amount to thirty-six. There were unpublished four string quartets, a string quintet, and a piano quintet. The Quartet in D minor, Op. 34 is dedicated to Brahms, but the first movement reminds one rather of Schubert. He wrote Bagatelles Opus 47 for two violins, cello, and harmonia, a delightful work. He wrote it for home music making of his friend Sir Debrenov. There are five short movements. The F minor Pianoforte trio, Opus 65 is the first of a group of works which belong to the peak period of Dvorak's creative life.
His Pinaoforte Quintet in A major, Opus 81 is simply one of the most perfect chamber music works in existence; perfect in that it accomplishes perfectly what it sets out to do. Perfect as a whole and in all its parts. The workmanship is that of a master.
Romance Opus 11 created in 1879 takes as its first tune the second subject of the F minor Quartet Op.12 also from the year 1879, and then develops on its own. This is an instance of Dvorak's unwillingness to lose sight of a good idea. The chief melody is a mendelssohnnian Song Without Words of some charm, with which is contrasted a reminiscence in the second subject of Schubert's B minor Symphony. They mix
nicely but the piece is overlong and betrays in the decorative passages too obvious a desire to make the violin part effective.
Andante Con Moto(molto espressivo) If you enjoy playing in flats, this is the solo for you. The opening theme is shown below. This is carried throughout the solo in different keys. This solo can be performed with piano or orchestra accompaniment.
lots of work in the mid section. There will be many fingerings for you to try. Give thought to the key of each group.
poco stringendo e crec. - dim. - rit. - pp - This Romance ends with one flat in the key signature and a lot of accidentals. The end is pp. This solo calls for a great deal of musicality on the part of the performer.
ANTONIN DVORAK SONATINA Op.100
Dvork wrote Sonatina Op.100 while in New York and it was his 100th composition. He hit upon this charming idea of giving his two children Ottilie and Antonin a work simple enough for them to play. He wrote this Sonatina that includes the Minnehaha Fall tune in it. Grown ups also delighted in playing the piece.
Allegro risoluto - This is the opening theme
Larghetto - second movement
Scherzo - Molto vivace third movement
The bowing for the opening section is fun