Antonin Leopold Dvorak - biography & summary of his work
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ANTONIN LEOPOLD DVORAK Born: Muhlhausen, Sept. 8, 1841 Died: Prague, May 1, 1904 Occupation: violist, organist Nationality: Czech Born in a Bohemian village about fifty miles north of Prague, Dvorák was the son of the local butcher and innkeeper. He learned to play the violin as a small boy and was a chorister in the local church. When he reached the age of twelve he was sent to the neighbouring village of Zlonice to learn German and to study piano, viola, organ and harmony under Antonin Liehmann. In 1857, when he was only sixteen, Dvorák went to Prague to study at the organ school there. While there he give in to the magic of Wagner and Smetana. He spent most of the 1860's as an orchestral player, first in a small band and then in the Czech National Opera Orchestra, conducted by Bedrich Smetana.
Honors were heaped upon him. In 1891 he was appointed professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory. A year later he accepted a position to head the New York National Conservatory of Music in the U.S. After three years in that capacity he decided to return home in 1895. Restored to a more congenial environment, he set to work on a number of symphonic poems. His closing years were devoted largely to creating operas, none of which were anywhere near as successful as his orchestral and chamber works. In 1901 he was made director of the Prague Conservatory, where he continued to teach until his death. Dvorák's importance lies partly in his nationalist outlook. During the last half of the nineteenth century, Bohemia (later part of the Czech Republic)
When the Prince abandons Rusalka for the Foreign Princess (soprano), the witches curse comes true. The prince repents and returns to rusalka and both he and Rusalka die to the taste of a kiss. His repentance however ensures the water nymph a human soul. The music, like the libretto, draws from Czechoslovakian traditions. It incorporates, as does many of Dvorák's other compositions, many Slovakian dances. The nationalistic feel to the music is heard particularly in "the more vigorous episodes with the wood nymphs at the beginning of where rusalka falls in love with the prince and speaks to her father, and the first act melody of Jeibaba the witch". These folk influences give the music, at times, a lyrical tendency and we can imagine the nymphs dancing around. It just gives that whole feel of russian music. When I played this song at home, my mom jumped up and recognised it as typical Russian music.
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