Saturday, 22 March 2014


“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” - George Eliot

Antonín Leopold Dvořák (September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904) was a Czech composer. Following the nationalist example of Bedřich Smetana, Dvořák frequently employed features of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia (then parts of the Austrian Empire and now constituting the Czech Republic). 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.”

Born in Nelahozeves, Dvořák displayed his musical gifts at an early age. His first surviving work, Forget-Me-Not Polka in C (Polka pomněnka) was written possibly as early as 1855. He graduated from the organ school in Prague in 1859. In the 1860s, he played as a violist in the Bohemian Provisional Theatre Orchestra and gave piano lessons. In 1873, he married Anna Čermáková, and left the orchestra to pursue another career as a church organist. He wrote several compositions during this period.

Dvořák’s music attracted the interest of Johannes Brahms, who assisted his career; he was also supported by the critics Eduard Hanslick and Louis Ehlert. After the premiere of his cantata “Stabat Mater” (1880), Dvořák visited the United Kingdom and became popular there; his Seventh Symphony was written for London. After a brief conducting period in Russia in 1890, Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory in 1891. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City, where he also composed. However, shortfalls in payment of his salary, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness made him decide to return to Bohemia.

From 1895 until his death, he composed mainly operatic and chamber music. At his death, he left several unfinished works. Among Dvořák’s best known works are his “From The New World Symphony”, the “American String Quartet”, the opera “Rusalka” and his “Cello Concerto in B minor”. Among his smaller works, the seventh “Humoresque” and the song “Songs my mother taught me” are also widely performed and recorded. He composed operas, choral music, a wide variety of chamber music, concerti and many other orchestral and vocal and instrumental pieces. He has been described as “…arguably the most versatile composer of his time.

Here is his “Requiem in B flat Minor” Op. 89, B 165, a funeral mass for soloists, choir and orchestra, composed in 1890. Dvořák composed the Requiem at the beginning of his peak creative period. The construction of the mass is not typical: The composition is divided in two basic parts, each of which begins with the original interconnection of several liturgical sequences. Dvořák inserted between the “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei” a lyrical “Pie Jesu” movement based on the final text of the “Dies Irae” sequence.

The Requiem's basic melodic motif is created by two ascending half-tones with an incorporated very sorrowful diminished third, which begins the piece and continues in many variations as the main motif throughout the whole work. Dvořák’s Requiem is a supreme opus of classicist-romantic synthesis. This composition inspired many other Czech composers, such as Josef Suk and Bohuslav Martinů. This composition was performed for the first time on 9 October 1891, in Birmingham, England, with the composer conducting.


  1. Love it, thanks. Because my husband was born and raised in his early years in Czechoslovakia, I have adopted Czech composers as important cultural figures for myself. None more so than Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček. I will leave Mahler out of the this discussion because it is difficult for me to think of him as Czech.

    Dvořák was very wise absorbing features of the folk music of Moravia and Bohemia in his own works. In fact if any composer wants to be loved and remembered in his homeland, “the fullest recreation of a national idiom" is the way to go. At least for his operas, choral music and chamber music. Perhaps being famous for a very impressive funeral mass for soloists, choir and orchestra was more surprising.

  2. This is amazing! Thanks for introducing me to it. All I know of Dvorak is the New World symphony and the Moon Song.

  3. Wonderful music! Thanks for uploading.