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An independent talent, formed under adverse circumstances and triumphantly emerged from a difficult struggle.

G. Laroche

Antonin Dvořák is undoubtedly the most famous Czech of all time. He succeeded in what not all great people can do. During his lifetime, he was appreciated throughout Europe and the USA, and his works were also known in Australia. The powerful talent and hard work of Dvorak brought many magnificent works to the world musical culture.

Family traditions
On September 8, 1841, the future musician Antonin Leopoldovich Dvořák was born in the small Czech village of Nelagozeves on the left bank of the Vltava River. His father, like his grandfather and great-grandfather, was a butcher. They began to prepare for the same activity in the future, the white-chubby robber Tonichka: as soon as the baby learned to walk, he was presented with an apron and a donkey, and a little later he also had his duties in the shop.

composer Antonin Dvořák However, young Dvořák liked hours of leisure more when he played with his brothers in improvised dances: he picked up zither and tried to convey some kind of folk song. Scraps of melodies were constantly worn in his head, but so far only he heard them …

When the time came, Tonic was sent to school. It was there that he became acquainted with classical music. These were truly wonderful times for a diligent student. But the two-year school course ended, and Antonina decided to send to the city of Zlotnitsa – to master the craft of a butcher. Dvorak diligently delved into the profession, and then, as expected, began to work in the slaughterhouse. For music lessons in these years, only short hours of leisure remained.

Having received the appropriate document, allowing to open his own business, the young man was finally able to think about the future. His dreams were then modest. The artist was still dozing in it. Romantic impulses have not yet manifested. He was just a craftsman who wanted to change one profession for another, more attractive to him.

Novice musician Antonin Dvorak
Dvorak was 16 years old when his father, yielding to the insistent requests of his son, took him on his cart to Prague and helped to decide on the Organ School, which trained professional composers. And the young man began to study: diligently sat at the scores and sorted the notes. He passed the final exam successfully, but only in the composer Antonin Dvorakkharakteristik, issued by the school, stated: “Great, but rather practical talent … In theory, he is weaker.”

After leaving school, Antonin faced difficulties: in the orchestras all the places were occupied, and the church organist was also unable to get a job. For some time he was looking for work, after which he entered the ensemble of Karel Komzak as an violist. Although the team performed only at balls and in restaurants, the leader sought to constantly improve the level of professionalism of his wards. Therefore, the practice was good.

Soon Komzak offered Dvorak a place in the orchestra of the Prague Mental Hospital, where he himself played the organ. In this way, the composer could communicate with the madmen with the help of a language of music that was understandable to both sides.

New changes in Antonin’s life took place in the autumn of 1862, when the Provisional Theater opened in Prague and the musicians of the Komzak chapel, who proved themselves well, became the core of his future orchestra. He worked there for 10 years, and during this time managed to participate in the performance of many famous operas. It was a great school for a young musician who wanted to write his own works. There was almost no free time, however, Dvorak was constantly engaged in self-education and was tireless in his studies. Once, while sitting at the piano, he played music with enthusiasm. A cousin who entered his room asked her brother to take her to the theater with her. Only fifteen minutes later, having finished playing, did he finally hear her request.
Love for sisters
Antonin Dvořák with his wife Annna and his wife Anna in London (1886)
Even while studying at the Organ School, Dvorak created the first chamber works – a quintet and quartet, and in 1865 he tried his hand at a symphony. Then a very expensive composition was written for him – the vocal cycle “Cypress”, which was a monument to the composer’s first feeling for the charming actress of the Provisional Theater Josefina Chermakova. Spoiled by the worship of the public, she did not respond to the love of a restrained, shy musician.

And then the artist changed Prague to Weimar, and Dvořák, who was studying music with her younger sister, suddenly found that his ward not only learned to play the piano and sing, but also turned into a cute 19-year-old girl. On November 17, 1873, Antonin married Anna. The family grew rapidly: in total they had 6 daughters and 3 sons.

To earn at least some money, the musician took the organist’s place in the church, and his wife began to sing in church choirs. However, even the financial assistance of friends did not save from need. The composer found solace in his work and until the end of the 1870s created many works of various genres. They gradually evolved individual features of the Dvorak style.

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