Antonin Dvoák (8 September 1841 – 1 May 1904) was a Czech composer who was one of the first to earn international acclaim. Following the Romantic-era nationalist example of his predecessor Bedrich Smetana, Dvoák frequently used rhythms and other features of Moravian and Bohemian folk music. "The fullest reconstitution of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding efficient ways of applying them," Dvoák's approach has been described. Dvoák showed his musical talent at a young age, becoming an adept violin student at six. His works were first performed in public in Prague in 1872 and, with particular success, in 1873, when he was 31. To gain fame outside of Prague, he entered a score of his First Symphony in a prize competition in Germany, but he did not win, and the manuscript was lost until it was recovered many decades later. In 1874, he submitted scores for two more symphonies and other works to the Austrian State Prize for Composition. Even though Dvoák was unaware of it, Johannes Brahms, the jury's chairman, was very impressed. When Brahms and the eminent critic Eduard Hanslick, a member of the panel, made themselves known to Dvoák, the prize was granted to him in 1874, 1876, and 1877. Brahms suggested Dvoák to his publisher, Simrock, who commissioned the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, shortly after. In 1878, the Berlin music critic Louis Ehlert commended them highly, the sheet music (of the original piano 4-hands version) sold well, and Dvoák's international name was finally established. In 1880, Dvoák's first religious work, a setting of Stabat Mater, was debuted in Prague. It was a huge hit when it was first played in London in 1883, and it went on to be performed throughout the United Kingdom and the United States. Dvoák visited England nine times during his career, often leading performances of his compositions. His Seventh Symphony was composed for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In March 1890, he paid a visit to Russia and gave Moscow and Saint Petersburg concerts of his compositions. Dvoák was appointed to the Prague Conservatory as a professor in 1891. He composed his Dumky Trio, one of his most famous chamber music works, between 1890 and 1891.
Dvoák relocated to the United States in 1892 and became the director of New York City's National Conservatory of Music. Jeannette Thurber, President of the National Conservatory of Music in America, gave Dvoák a $15,000 annual salary, which was a massive figure (equal to $432,056 in 2020) twenty-five times what he was paid at the Prague Conservatory. Dvoák wrote his two most successful orchestral works in the United States: the Symphony From the New World, which established his international name, and his Cello Concerto, which is one of the most highly acclaimed cello concerti. Dvoák moved from New York City to Spillville, Iowa, in the summer of 1893, on the advice of his secretary, J.J. Kovarik. Dvoák had intended to return to Bohemia, but Spillville, primarily comprised of Czech immigrants, helped him feel less homesick; he referred to it as his "summer Vysoka." Beethoven composed his most renowned chamber work, the String Quartet in F major, Op. 96, which became known as the American Quartet. Dvorák's contract at the National Conservatory was extended for another two years shortly after his stay in Iowa. The economic crisis of April 1893, on the other hand, resulted in Thurber's spouse losing his job and had a direct impact on the National Conservatory's funding. In 1895, he left the United States and returned to Bohemia due to a lack of payment of his wages, increased fame in Europe, and homesickness. Except for his first opera, Dvoák's nine operas have Czech librettos and were designed to represent the Czech national spirit, as did some of his choral works. Rusalka is by far the most popular of the operas. The eighth Humoresque and the ballad "Songs My Mother Taught Me" are two of his more minor compositions frequently sung and recorded. He's been called "probably the most diverse... a composer of his generation." The Dvoák Prague International Music Festival is an annual series of performances honoring Dvoák's life and achievements.