You are on page 1of 4

Dvok was born on September 8, 1841, in the Bohemian village of Nelahozeves,

near Prague (then part of Bohemia in the Austrian Empire, now in the Czech Republic),
where he spent most of his life. He was baptized as a Roman Catholic in the church of
St. Andrew in the village. Dvok's years in Nelahozeves nurtured the strong Christian
faith and love for his Bohemian heritage which so strongly influenced his music.
[1]
His
father Frantiek Dvok (18141894) was an innkeeper, professional player of
the zither, and a butcher. Although his father wanted him to be a butcher as well,
Dvok went on to pursue a future in music. He received his earliest musical education
at the village school which he entered in 1847, age 6. From 1857 to 1859
[2]
he
studied music in Prague's only organ school, and gradually developed into an
accomplished player of the violin and the viola. He wrote his first String Quartet when he
was twenty years old, two years after graduating.
Throughout the 1860s he played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra,
which from 1866 was conducted by Bedich Smetana. By the time he was eighteen
years old, Dvok was a full-time musician. He was making about $7.50 a month. The
constant need to supplement his income pushed him to teach piano lessons. It was
through these piano lessons that he met his wife. He originally fell in love with his pupil
Josefna ermkov, for whom he composed Cypress Trees. However, she never
returned his love and ended up marrying another man. In 1873 Dvok married
Josefina's younger sister, Anna. They had nine children together, three of whom died
during infancy.
It was after his marriage that he left the National Theatre Orchestra, in which he had
been playing for eleven years. He secured the job of organist at St. Adalberts Church in
Prague, which provided him with decent financial security, a higher state in social status,
and enough free time to focus on composing. Dvok composed his second string
quintetin 1875, the same year that his first son was born. It was during this year that he
produced a multitude of works, including his 5th Symphony, String Quintet No. 2, Piano
Trio No. 1 and Serenade for Strings in E.
In 1877, the critic Eduard Hanslick informed him that his music had attracted the
attention of the famous Johannes Brahms, whom Dvok admired greatly. Brahms had
a huge influence over Dvoks work, especially as the two later became friends. Brahms
contacted the musical publisher Simrock, one of the major European publishers.
Published in 1878, the above mentioned works were an immediate success.
Dvok's Stabat Mater (1880) was performed abroad, and after a successful
performance in London in 1883, Dvok was invited to visit England where he appeared
to great acclaim in 1884. His Symphony No. 7 was written for London; it premiered
there in 1885. Dvok visited England nine times in total
[2]
, often conducting his own
works there.
In 1890, influenced by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Dvok also visited Russia, and
conducted the orchestras in Moscow and in St. Petersburg.
[2]
In 1891 Dvok received an
honorary degree from the University of Cambridge, and was offered a position at the
Prague Conservatory as professor of composition and instrumentation. At first he refused
the offer, but then later accepted. He probably changed his mind and accepted this offer
after quarrelling with his publisher, Simrock, over payment for his Eighth Symphony.
HisRequiem premiered later that year in Birmingham at the Triennial Music Festival.
United States (18921895)

Dvok's funeral on May 5, 1904

Dvok's tomb inPrague

Statue of Dvok inStuyvesant Square,Manhattan near the site of his house
From 1892 to 1895, Dvok was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in
New York City, at a then-staggering $15,000 annual salary. The Conservatory had been
founded by a wealthy and philanthropic socialite, Jeannette Thurber; it was located at
126-128 East 17th Street,
[3][4]
but was demolished in 1911 and replaced by what is now
a high school.
Dvoks main goal in America was to discover American Music and engage in it, much
as he had utilized Czech folk idioms within his music. Shortly after his arrival in America
in 1892, Dvok wrote a series of newspaper articles reflecting on the state of American
music. He supported the concept that African-American and Native American music
should be used as a foundation for the growth of American music. He felt that through
the music of Native Americans and African-Americans, Americans would find their own
nationalist music.
[5]
Here Dvok met with Harry Burleigh, his pupil at the time and one
of the earliest African-American composers. Burleigh introduced Dvok to traditional
American Spirituals at Dvok's request.
[6]

In the winter and spring of 1893, while in New York, Dvok wrote Symphony No.9,
"From the New World". On December 15, 1893,Henry Edward Krehbiel wrote a complete
analysis in the New York Daily Tribune regarding Dvok's symphony. He spent the
summer of 1893 with his family in the Czech-speaking community of Spillville, Iowa, to
which some of his cousins had earlier immigrated. While there he composed the String
Quartet in F (the "American"), and the String Quintet in E flat, as well as a Sonatina for
violin and piano. He also conducted a performance of his Eighth Symphony at the
Columbian Exposition in Chicago that same year.
Over the course of three months in 1895, Dvok wrote his Cello Concerto in B minor.
However, problems with Mrs. Thurber about his salary, together with increasing
recognition in Europe he had been made an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der
Musikfreunde in Vienna and a remarkable amount of homesickness made him decide
to return to Bohemia. He informed Mrs. Thurber, who still owed him his salary, that he
was leaving. Dvok and his wife left New York before the end of the spring term with no
intention of returning.
Dvok's New York home was located at 327 East 17th Street near Perlman Place.
[7]
It
was in this home that the Ninth Symphony was written. Despite protests, from
then CzechPresident Vclav Havel amongst others, who wanted the house preserved as
a historical site, it was demolished to make room for a Beth Israel Medical
Center residence for people with AIDS.
[8]
To honor Dvok, however, a statue of him was
erected in Stuyvesant Square.
[4][9]

Later career
After returning home from America, Dvok at first spent most of his time resting and
spending time with his family in the country. During his final years, Dvok concentrated
on composing opera and chamber music. In 1896 he visited London for the last time to
hear the premiere of his Cello Concerto in B minor. In 1897 his daughter married a pupil
of his the composer Josef Suk. Dvok was appointed a member of the jury for the
Viennese Artists Stipendium, and later was honored with a medal. Dvok
succeeded Antonn Bennewitz as director of the Conservatory in Prague in November
1901 until his death from heart failure in 1904.
[10]
. His 60th birthday was celebrated as a
national event, with organized concerts and even a banquet in his honor. He died from
heart failure on May 1, 1904, following five weeks of illness. His funeral was on May 5.
He is interred in theVyehrad cemetery in Prague, under his bust by Czech
sculptor Ladislav aloun.
He left many unfinished works, including the early Cello Concerto in A major
(see Concerti below).
Works
See also: List of compositions by Antonn Dvok
Dvok wrote in a variety of forms: his nine symphonies generally stick to classical
models that Beethoven would have recognised, but he also worked in the newly
developedsymphonic poem form and the influence of Richard Wagner is apparent in
some works. Many of his works also show the influence of Czech folk music, both in
terms of elements such as rhythms and melodic shapes; perhaps the best known
examples are the two sets of Slavonic Dances. His interest in nationalist ideas carried
over to his work in the United States. Dvok also wrote operas (of which the best
known is Rusalka); serenades for string orchestra and wind ensemble; chamber
music (including a number of string quartets and quintets); songs; choral music;
and piano music.