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Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born in 1841 to František and Anna Dvořák.  František was an innkeeper, butcher, and professional zither player.  Antonín was their eldest child and showed an aptitude for music at a young age.  At the age of six, he was learning to play the violin.  He went on to study the organ and piano as well as music theory.

In his late teens, Dvořák lived in Prague and studied at the Organ School.  After graduating second in his class, he applied for an organist position but was unsuccessful in securing the job.  He remained in Prague and performed with the orchestras there during his twenties.  At this time, he also started composing and was teaching on the side to supplement his income.

He married Anna Čermáková in 1873.  Shortly after his marriage, Dvořák became the organist at St. Vojtěch Church in Prague.

In 1874, he won the Austrian State Prize for composition.  This prize was intended to give some additional financial support to composers in need.  Dvořák applied again in 1877 and was once again awarded the prize.  Brahms was on both juries that awarded the prize and he was much impressed by the talent and volume of Dvořák compositions.  So much so that Brahms recommended Dvořák to his own publisher, Simrock.  After the successful publication of Dvořák’s Moravian Duets, Simrock commissioned him for a series of dance pieces, published as the Slavonic Dances.  This helped launch his international career.

Tonight the Prazak Quartet will bring us one of Dvořák’s better known chamber music pieces.  Join us to hear Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, “American”.  http://music-toronto.com/quartets/prazak.htm

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Antonín Dvořák

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.

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