Maestro DvoÅÃ¡k among his family
AntonÃn DvoÅÃ¡k’s breakthrough came in 1878, when his Moravian duets were released by Berlin-based music publisher Fritz Simrock on a recommendation from Johannes Brahms. Their success was followed by the premiere of DvoÅÃ¡k’s famous Slavic dances.
Brahms, a German living in Vienna, eventually became a close friend of DvoÅÃ¡k and will continue to support the talented Czech composer. In Vienna, he repeatedly insisted that an annual allowance for talented artists be paid to DvoÅÃ¡k. Brahms became a mentor and advisor to the Czech composer, serving as an example for him.
The two men were not only bound by mutual friendship, but also by respect for each other. Brahms once said that he would be happy if the main thing on his mind was just a quick flash of thought for DvoÅÃ¡k. The Czech composer certainly had plenty of ideas. In 1889, he wrote to publisher Simrock that his mind was “overflowing with ideas.” At that time, he was thinking of his famous 8th symphony. DvoÅÃ¡k’s son-in-law, Josef Suk, personally witnessed this thought process.
“This constant creative bustle! I see the hand of the master, which constantly, sometimes even during a pause in conversation, is playing relentlessly on his coat like on a piano. He seemed to be thinking only of music.” Suk wrote.
DvoÅÃ¡k’s son Otakar also remembered his father’s zeal in composing, witnessing his father writing the opera Rusalka.
âWe found out that the opera was finished over lunch. We sat down at the table and began to eat. It was quiet for a while when suddenly the father said, âHe’s dead. Everyone was in shock and all of us, including the mother, started asking the father who had died. âThe prince of course,â said the father, âshe gave him a kiss and he, the poor boy, must die after thatâ. “
There are several accounts that describe the special nature of DvoÅÃ¡k. When the Czech poet Jaroslav VrchlickÃ½ wrote to DvoÅÃ¡k that he is a big child, he was referring to the zeal and direct, almost innocent nature of the composer.
Nonetheless, there were also occasions when DvoÅÃ¡k had to ensure that his behavior followed strict protocol. When his works rose to fame in England, DvoÅÃ¡k began to write compositions for local audiences, often traveling to Britain to perform them himself. Guests in attendance also included members of the royal family, and DvoÅÃ¡k, along with his wife, was invited to the royal box during the main intermission at one of these events. After a formal greeting, DvoÅÃ¡k’s wife was taken aside by one of the royal officials who began to ask her about her husband’s hobbies. The Queen was apparently interested in this herself. Embarrassed, the wife of Czech composer Anna, said he had a great passion for breeding pigeons. And so on the return of the Czech couple, they received a royal package containing two pairs of English pouters and four pairs of Jacobin pigeons. DvoÅÃ¡k would have been so happy that he jokingly said to his wife: “Thank goodness you didn’t tell them I like locomotives.”
DvoÅÃ¡k is at home
Much has been written about how AnotnÃn DvoÅÃ¡k would spend time at his favorite Rusalka house in VysokÃ¡ u PÅÃbrami, resting and composing near the castle of his stepfather, Count VÃ¡clav Kounic. However, DvoÅÃ¡k spent most of his life in the New Town of Prague and his last decade in a house on Å½itnÃ¡ Street. Several prominent personalities of the time visited him here. Among them were of course Johannes Brahms, but also LeoÅ¡ JanÃ¡Äek or the famous Russian composer Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky. Even a short note survives in Tchaikovsky’s diary about such a visit in February 1888:
âLunch at DvoÅÃ¡k’s. His wife is a simple, kind woman who is also an excellent housekeeper.
As for LeoÅ¡ JanÃ¡Äek, he even lived in DvoÅÃ¡k’s apartment for a while – in the summer of 1883 – when DvoÅÃ¡k’s family was on vacation in VysokÃ¡ and loaned their apartment to the young Czech composer. Another regular visitor to Å½itnÃ¡ was Berlin music publisher Fritz Simrock, who published most of the Czech composer’s works. DvoÅÃ¡k was also regularly visited by librettist Marie ÄervinkovÃ¡ RiegrovÃ¡, one of the most educated women in Prague society at the time. She wrote libretto for DvoÅÃ¡k’s opera Dimitry and Jacobin. She noted in her diary that she loved DvoÅÃ¡k.
âHe’s incredibly kind and naturalâ¦ he’s not arrogant. All the fame in the world had no influence on him. He remained the same person he was before.
Another visitor was the poet Julius Zeyer and in the same house as DvoÅÃ¡k lived the famous sculptor Josef MaÅatka, who would create the bust of the composer in the foyer of the National Theater. Josef HlÃ¡vka, a successful architect who was known as a philanthropist among Czech artists, also returned from time to time. “What DvoÅÃ¡k says is sacred to me”, he wrote. Indeed, it seems that this is the reason for the comings and goings of many visitors. DvoÅÃ¡k’s pupil VÃtÄzslav NovÃ¡k summed it up as follows:
âHe greeted Beethoven, admired Wagner and Berlioz, respected Brahms a lot and loved Schubert. The master knew all the beautiful and original compositions ever created in music.
Antonin DvoÅÃ¡k at the cinema
Many of Antonin DvoÅÃ¡k’s compositions can be heard in the Oscar-winning film Kolja, by ZdenÄk and Jan SvÄrÃ¡k Kolja. This includes String Quartet No.12 (2nd movement), Chansons bibliques (No.4) and When My Old Mother from Slavic Dances (No.7 opus 72). In their previous film The Elementary School, the SvÄrÃ¡k used DvoÅÃ¡k’s famous Symphony No. 9 “New World”.
DvoÅÃ¡k’s Humoresky also appeared in the film The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Renowned Swedish director Ingmar Bergman has chosen to use DvoÅÃ¡k’s compositions in his Oscar-winning film Fanny and Alexander.
In the movie Queen Victoria with Emily Blunt we can hear the Serenade in E major, in the fantasy fairy tale Star Dust with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro Slavic dances are heard.