The Genealogy and History of Antonín Dvořák
“Bohemia is one of those happy countries whose people may truly be called a race of poets and musicians.”
Penned by J. J. Král, for his article “Bohemian Popular Poetry” in Music, (Vol III, March 1893) Chicago, IL and also noted “Respectfully dedicated to Dr. Antonín Dvořák”
Growing up in Cleveland, Mamie Vícha, my Bohemian grandmother, was a serious music lover. Besides her cooking knedlíky and koláče for me, I was often blessed to be her escort to the opera or to hear George Szell lead the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. On our bus rides to Severance Hall my grandmother would regale me with stories of Antonín Dvořák, his music, my Bohemian roots, and how her father had been instrumental in raising money for Antonín’s trip to Spillville, Iowa.
These memories made the January 28, 1964 article I came across in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) headlined “Via Pen Pal. Dvořák Memorabilia Rests in Cleveland” very interesting and had me wishing my grandmother had known that a Bohemian-born Clevelander, Mrs. Emil Hess, had been a long time pen pal with Antonín’s son, Ottokar along with his wife, and that Mrs. Hess had gathered an impressive collection of memorabilia as a result. The article mentions that Mrs. Hess donated her collection to Severance Hall. Someday I’d love to see that collection and I sure wish I could take my grandmother with me, but as a genealogist I know she will be right there in spirit when I do.
It has often been said music runs deeply through the genes of the Bohemian people. Nowhere is this more evident than with one of the best known Bohemian artists of all time, Antonín Dvořák. Some academics argue as to whether Alfonse Mucha or Antonín Dvořák is the best known Bohemian artist, but there is no doubt in the world of musical arts Dvořák is the best known Bohemian of all time and has become an integral part of our Bohemian cultural history we all enjoy and enjoy sharing so much.
A bit of genealogy
Antonín was born on September 8, 1841 in the Bohemian village of Nelahozeves, which is about 35 km NNW of Prague and located alongside the Vltava River. His father, František Dvořák, (1814-1894) was a butcher and innkeeper and his mother was Anna Zdeňková (1820-1882). Antonín was the eldest of eight siblings and lived with his family for the first 12 years of his life in his home village. After these earliest years, Antonín would move about Bohemia as he attended better schools in order to learn the German language, a necessity in those days of Austro-Hungarian control, as well as to expand his overall education.
It may be surprising to know Antonín only had two years (1857-1859) of formal music education. He attended the Institute for Church Music in Prague, but this lack did not seem to effect his musical productivity. It is said that perhaps Antonín came by his love of music from his father, whose butcher business and inn keeping both languished due to his father’s own passion for music and the fact he preferred to spend his time playing his favorite instrument, the zither. Much of the literature on Antonín reports that Antonín himself was actually an apprentice butcher, but this claim, along with the now missing document, has been proven to be a falsehood.
Tomorrow we continue our genealogy and history of the great Czech composer, Antoniin Dvoraak so stay tuned!
Onward To Our Past®