Onward To Our Past® presents Installment 2 of “The Genealogy & History of Antonín Dvořák”.
Today we pick up the family history of this great Czech composer and then move into his life and times as one of Bohemia’s outstanding musicians.
Enjoy Installment 2.
At the age of 32 Antonín married Anna Čermáková at St. Peter’s church in Prague. Anna and her elder sister Josephina had been early piano students of Antonín during his early years in Prague. Those early years of Antonín and Anna’s marriage were sparse indeed as Antonín later related that he was tempted to steal bread to feed his young family. Anna and Antonín would have a total of nine children. Their first three children, Otakar, Josefa, and Růžena, each died in infancy, however the later six, Otylie, Anna, Magdalena, Antonín, Otakar, and Aloisie, all survived into adulthood. The family line continues to this day with many descendants of Antonín and Anna living at this time including Antonín Dvořák III, IV, and V. Of these children, Otylie and Magdalena were the most musically inclined with Otylie composing many piano pieces and Magdalena became a concert singer. Otylie also married one of Antonin’s pupils, Josef Suk, who became a well-known composer in his own right and whose grandson became a noted violinist.
A bit of history
It would not be until 1877 that Antonín would get his ‘big break’ in the music business and it would be thanks to an equally recognizable name, Johannes Brahms. It was Brahms who requested that his own publisher consider publishing two of Antonín’s early works, Moravian Duets and Slavonic Dances. By 1879 Dvořák’s works were being played worldwide and the rest, as they say is history and what a musical history it is!
Antonín was a versatile composer whose oeuvre (body of work) is comprised of more than 200 works from short piano pieces to symphonies and from full operas to oratorios, rhapsodies and dances. 186 of these works survive today and a great number of Antonín’s works remain as mainstays in the repertoire of orchestras and musical groups across the globe.
Not only was Antonín famous in his home country, but he and his music were in demand far from his home in Prague. In the three years of 1884-86 he took five trips and spent more than 100 days in the United Kingdom, where his works The Spectre’s Bride, St. Ludmila, and Seventh Symphony in D Minor were in greatest demand. He would return frequently to the United Kingdom, receive an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University and his fame would draw him to still further travels. Tchaikovsky invited Antonín to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia where he directed many of his orchestral works.
In 1891, Antonín would began his teaching career at the Conservatory in Prague. From this point on, in addition to composing, Antonín would continue teaching for the rest of his life. Some of his pupils became outstanding composers in their own right, such as Oskar Nedbal, Vítĕzslav Novák, and his son-in-law, Josef Suk.
It was in 1892 that Antonín accepted the position with the National Conservatory of Music of America. He was offered the salary of $15,000 per school year, which was more than thirty times his pay in Prague, and only took the position at the prodding of his wife, Anna. However, before Antonín and his family would leave for the United States, he scheduled what might be the first ‘farewell tour’, which have become de rigueur for nearly every musician these days. He performed forty concerts of his own chamber music across the villages and towns of Bohemia.
Tomorrow we continue with our story of Antonín Dvořák with Installment #3.
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