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Dvorak, Antonin

Antonin Dvorák, the Czech composer best known for his Symphony No. 9 'From the Modern Age,' was dedicated to his birthplace and its classical songs. Antonin Leopold Dvorák was born on September 8, 1841, in a small village north of Prague, the eldest of 14 brothers. His father worked as a butcher, an innkeeper, and a talented zither player. Any family gathering was followed by folk music, and Antonin eventually followed his father in the local band – and worked as an apprentice butcher. Dvorák learned organ, violin, piano, and - less effectively - the German language while he was younger. He was a member of the Bohemian Provisional Theatre Orchestra, which sang in restaurants and ballrooms. In 1871, he retired from the orchestra to focus on composing, eking out a livelihood as a piano tutor. After trying to woo and being refused by her niece, Josefina, Dvorák married Anna Ermáková in 1873. Dvorák and his wife had a family of nine children, six of whom survived childhood. He quit the orchestra after his marriage to become a church organist, which presented him with a higher wage, higher social standing, and more time to write.

Dvorák's first compositions were not well regarded by critics or performed in public. Any of the composer's early works were also burnt by the self-critical composer. However, Dvorák's music started to pique the attention of critic Eduard Hanslick and composer Johannes Brahms, who improved Dvorák's career. Simrock, on Brahms' suggestion, commissioned Dvorák to compose some Slavonic Dances for piano duet in 1877. The sheet music for the eight dances sold out in one day, targeted at the lucrative domestic market. As Dvorák's publisher, Simrock, refused to give him an advance for his Symphony No.7, the composer stated that he had missed funds due to a poor potato harvest and wanted money right away. Simrock, therefore, declined to print Dvorák's full first name on the cover, preferring to Germanize it. Dvorák was especially well-liked in the United Kingdom. He came nine times, including world premieres of several of his big works in Birmingham, London, and Leeds.


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