Dvořák's symphonic works are part of the usual repertoire of major orchestras, festivals. The strength of his melodic invention was breathtaking even for the composer's contemporaries (known Brahms‘ statement goes: "Dvořák‘s secondary ideas would – for me – suffice as main ideas."). He is known for symphonies and grand vocal-instrumental compositions as well as chamber music and opera. Dvořák is a leading representative of the so-called Classicist-romantic synthesis.
Antonin Dvorak was born in Nelahozeves in 1841. He spent his boyhood in Zlonice, where he studied music theory and playing the violin. At sixteen, he moved to Prague to study at the Organ School, where he graduated in 1859.
Since 1862, he played the viola in the orchestra of the Provisional Theater, where Bedřich Smetana became a conductor in 1866. Dvořák stayed there till 1871. In order to increase his income, he also gave piano lessons, where he eventually met his future wife. Originally he fell in love with his pupil Josephine Čermáková, however, married her younger sister Anna. The couple had nine children.
His first attempts at composing have not met with public acceptance. After his wedding, he began working as an organ player in the Saint Vojtěch’s church in the New Town. Dvořák’s path was significantly influenced by music critic Eduard Hanslick, a Prague native working in Vienna. In 1877, his work drew the attention of Johannes Brahms, who has recommended Dvořák to Berlin publisher Simrock. Dvořák then wrote the first series of his "Slavonic Dances" and received a very positive feedback.
Dvořák's family were frequent guests of count JUDr. Václav Robert of Kounice (Dvořák's brother in law) in his castle in Vysoká near Příbram, where he found an ideály tranquil environment to compose.
Dvořák also worked as a conductor of his own compositions. In 1884, he was invited to London to conduct his "Stabat Mater". He met with astounding success and gained strong ties to the English music scene. In 1892, he was appointed the director of the US National Conservatory in New York. His stay in the United States in the years 1892-1895 brought him a world renown.
After returning to the Czech Republic, Dvořák spent most of his time with his family in Vysoká near Příbram. During this time, he composed two of his most famous operas - Rusalka and Armida. In 1895, Dvořák became a professor and eventually the director of the
Prague Conservatory, where he taught a number of important Czech composers. Dvořák's work has then been performed and celebrated both at home and abroad, and his sixtieth birthday in 1901 became a national event. He has been even declared a knight ("Ritter von Dvořák") by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I.
Antonín Dvořák died of a stroke on May 1, 1904. He left a magnificent legacy. Dvořák was a very religious man, he had a kind and uncomplicated personality. Among his major hobbies were railways and breeding pigeons.