Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born in September of 1841. On April 10th, we will hear the String Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 97 by this famous Czech composer. This piece is scored for a string quartet with an additional viola and will be performed for our audience by the Parker Quartet with Kikuei Ikeda (formerly of the Tokyo Quartet) as the additional viola player.
This particular quintet was written in 1893, the year after Dvořák and his family moved to the U.S. He had been hired as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, a position he held until 1895. Part of Dvořák contract included four months off each summer and his summer of 1893 was spent in Spillville, Iowa. Some of his cousins had emigrated to Spillville, which had an existing Czech community. Dvořák composed at least three pieces while he was there that summer, including the String Quintet in E-flat major.
The Conservatory was open to students of any gender and colour, very rare for any school in the late 1800’s. It was founded by Jeannette Thurber, a wealthy arts patron. Economic depression that started in 1893, lead to a depletion of her finances and those of many of the school’s patrons. By 1895, finances for the job had deteriorated and, with his salary cut almost in half and being paid sporadically, Dvořák decided to return home.