Antonín Dvorák , born on September 8, 1841 in a small town near Prague, is known to be one of the greatest Czech composers, noted for his attractive melodic compositions and the brilliance of his orchestration. At the age of 16 he studied at the Prague Organ School. There, he was introduced to the works of past great masters as well as to composers such as Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner.
In 1861 Dvorák joined the National Theatre in Prague as a violist. During this time he wrote many compositions, but not until 1873 with a performance of his grand patriotic work Hymnus for chorus and orchestra, did he achieve recognition. Composer Johannes Brahms later prevailed upon his publisher to print some of Dvorák ’s works.
Always composing an apparently effortless output of music, including Slavonic Dances in 1878, Dvorák soon became a professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory. In 1884 following a series of trips to London to conduct his own music, he earned a commission to compose The Spectre’s Bride. In 1891 he received an honorary doctorate degree from Cambridge University, the same year he composed the popular Carnival overture.
Following successful tours to Russia and Germany, Dvorák accepted an invitation in 1892 to become director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. In 1893 while in the United States, he wrote what is probably his most famous work, the Symphony in E Minor from The New World. In 1895 Dvorák returned to Prague where he completed Rusalka in 1900, the ninth of his 10 operas. In it, he tells the familiar story of a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince. The following year Dvorák became the director of the Prague Conservatory. He devoted his last years to working on an opera, Armida.
Despite the international recognition he had achieved, Dvorák lived in relative poverty as a result of unfavorable contracts with his music publishers. He died on May 1, 1904. A national day of mourning was declared, and Dvorák was honored with a burial in Vysehrad Cemetery, where many prominent Czechs are also buried.