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Antonin Dvořák

Antonin Dvořák

Although he was passionate about locomotives, due to his humble origins it was not obvious that he would make much use of them. Yet the Czech composer Antonin Dvořák would grow into a traveler who even crossed over to the United States of America through the popularity of his works.

He did that explicitly at the request of Mrs. Thurber, the wealthy founder of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. She paid for Dvořáks journey to and residence in the cosmopolitan capital. Her wish was that Dvořák would inspire the Americans and help them to develop their own American style.

Who would ever have thought that the son of a butcher and innkeeper and a maid would transform into an internationally renowned and sought-after composer?  Fortunately, his parents recognized the musical talent within Antonin at an early age and he was able to study music with financial support from others. After the Prague Organ School, he taught piano lessons and played violin and viola in the dance orchestra of Karel Komzák, which became the principal theater orchestra of the first Czech theater in Prague. He composed a lot in his leisure time, but the modest and critical Dvořák kept this private for a long time.

In 1866 Bedrich Smetana was appointed as conductor, an avid promotor of music with a distinctly Czech character. Inspired by him, Dvořák also went to examine the Slavic folk music and incorporated elements of it into his classical and German-oriented style. After his ‘coming out’ as a composer his reputation rose quickly.

Due to political tensions in Vienna, anti-Czech sentiments arose, which placed Dvořák in a dilemma: to compose more universal music or to keep cherishing the Slavic character? Fortunately, the English had no biases against Czechs. And he was also more than welcome in the United States, precisely because of his nationalistic music.

Dvořák took Mrs. Thurber’s  expectations seriously and examined in New York the music of the Indians and primarily the negro spirituals and ‘plantation songs’ from the South. He composed several works in various styles, loosely inspired on the black and Indian folk music. His Ninth Symphony ‘From the New World’ became one of his most popular classics.

Source: (Muziekweb.nl)    

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