Antonín Dvořák

The story of the world-famous composer Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) began in the small Bohemian village of Nelahozeves, 35 km north of Prague.
He rose from humble origins as the son of a local butcher and innkeeper, to become a celebrated international composer and musical genius. Transforming folk rhythms into great Romantic symphonies, Dvořák is credited with defining a Bohemian “national style” of music. During his tenure as the First Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York (1892–1895), Dvořák composed his best-known Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) which premiered at Carnegie Hall in December 1893. It was even taken on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon by Neil Armstrong. Dvořák encouraged Americans to listen to their unique musical heritage, especially black spirituals and Native American music. These inspired not only his own works, but also paved the way for American composers and musicians like Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington, spawning new musical genres, including jazz. His significant impact developed and shaped the future of a distinctly American musical voice. But, for all his international acclaim, Dvořák never forgot his humble roots. The sights and sounds of his childhood in Nelahozeves—trains and steamboats, folk music and dancing, church bells and bird song—echoed throughout his life, ever inspiring him to new musical heights.