Onward To Our Past® is proud to present the third and final installment of “The Genealogy & History of Antonín Dvořák”
Today we focus on Dvořák’s time in the United States and his ultimate return to Bohemia.
Enjoy this final installment of this story with our thanks from Onward To Our Past®
“Once in America, Antonín would spend three school years in New York, a three-month long summer in the very Czech-American Iowa town of Spillville, as well as making trips to Omaha, Nebraska; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Niagara Falls, New York. It is interesting to note while Antonín was in Chicago he attended the 1893 World’s Fair. Not only did he attend, but he had accepted a very specific invitation for August 12th of that year. This happened to be “Bohemian Day” at the Fair and Antonín was the guest of honor that day. The invitation was The Rockford Daily Spectator (Rockford, IL) reported on August 12, 1893
“Bohemian Day was begun also with a parade down town. The number in the parade is estimated at from 10,000 to 15,000 and was a brilliant spectacle. Excursions came from Omaha, Cleveland and other large cities. Among them were Roman Catholics, atheists, pantheists, deists, Methodists and Baptists, all assembled in peaceful celebration of the mother country. In addition to the parade there will be an oration by Charles Jones (sic, actually Jonas) lieutenant governor of Wisconsin; a concert in Festival hall, directed by Dr. Anton Dvorak, and an athletic exhibition by the Sokol societies in the area.”
While it is well known that Antonín was heavily influenced by the African-American and Native American music he heard while in America, you might not know why it is he would leave New York City to live for three months in rural Spillville, Iowa. There was a draw to Spillville beyond its Czech heritage. Antonín had a longtime personal secretary, a Czech-American fellow by the name of Josef Jan Kovařík. While Josef addressed Antonín as ‘Maestro’, the ‘Maestro’ referred to Josef by the nickname he had given him of “Indian”. It was Josef who had called Spillville home and convinced Antonín that it might be a good remedy for his homesickness for Bohemia and it must have been. Antonín is reported to have said “It is so beautiful here…so much like my native land” as well as “…composing now, thank goodness, only for my own pleasure.” I have often wondered if Antonín’s work, “Indian Lament” had something to do with his secretary, Josef ‘Indian’ Kovařík.
Unfortunately the ‘Spillville cure’ for homesickness did not last. Coupled with the fact that Antonín’s pay from the National Conservatory of Music of America was in arrears and erratic, Antonín and Anna made the decision in 1895 to return to their beloved Bohemia where they would remain.
Antonín’s fame continued upon his return to his beloved Bohemia, but it was not without its difficult times. In the early 1900s, a music critic, Zdeněk Nejedlý, sought to defame, denounce, and destroy Antonín and his works. For decades and for generations after Nejedlý’s efforts tore the Czech culture apart as he pitted ‘his man’ Bedřich Smetana, against Antonín, his music, and the whole of the Prague Conservatory. Nejedlý later would become an influential and high ranking Communist. As Minister of Culture and Education in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, a position he held for over eight years, he continued his attempts to destroy Antonín and his music. Luckily for Antonín, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, and the rest of the world, Antonín and his music proved stronger than Nejedlý’s hatred.
On May 1, 1904 Antonín Dvořák passed away, but his music and legacy certainly live on to enrich our lives and make every one of us with Bohemian blood in our veins rightly proud!”
Tomorrow join us as we begin a new and very exciting exclusive translation from Amerikán Národní Kalendář. We will take you all across
Onward To Our Past®