Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) probably did more than any other composer to put Czech music on the map in the 19thcentury. The son of a butcher and innkeeper, Dvořák rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most successful composers of the day and a celebrated figure on both sides of the Atlantic. A citizen of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, Dvořák, a Czech, had to overcome prejudice from the German-speaking élite in his quest to be taken seriously as a composer. He received the welcome support of Johannes Brahms who personally recommended Dvořák to Berlin publisher Fritz Simrock. Simrock made a tidy sum from Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, a collection of pieces which brought Dvořák to international attention virtually overnight. Dvořák developed a strong following in England – thanks, in large measure, to his choral works – and in the United States where, in the period 1892-95 he was Director and Professor of Composition at the National Conservatory of Music in New York. Dvořák’s ‘American period’ saw the composition of the New World symphony and American string quartet. In addition to nine symphonies, numerous symphonic poems, a truly great Cello Concerto and plentiful chamber works, Dvořák composed a number of operas, including Rusalka.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra