Antonin Leopold Dvorak (1841-1904) came from a poor family in the Bohemian village of Nelahzeves where his father was an innkeeper and butcher. In 1860 he left the apprenticeship of his father and attended the Organ College in Prague
, where his love of music brought him brilliant success.
First Bedrich Smetana - who inspired in him a love of Bohemian and Slavic folk music - and then Johannes Brahms, gave him much help and encouragement. His international reputation was gained through his Slavonic dances, and his concert tours of Germany and Russia and especially his frequent visits to England brought him increasing fame. He was awarded an honorary doctorate at Cambridge University, was professor and then director of Prague Conservatory where he taught Composition. He received (and accepted) a contract offer from the National Conservatory of Music in New York to be artistic director from 1892 to 1895. He wrote some of his best known works during that time which combined both American and Bohemian flavors.
Dvorak has written operas, symphonic poems, symphonies, concertos, choral works, chamber pieces, and piano pieces. His early compositions were strongly influenced by the styles of Mendelssohn, Schumann and other mid-19th Century German composers, while his later works have a great deal in common with Brahms. His desire to represent his country in his music did produce an individual style, though, which was predominantly bright and sunny, and it has made him one of the most popular composers of all time. His best loved works are the Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (From the New World), the Cello Concerto, the Slavonic Dances and the overture Carnival.
When he returned home in 1894, he was greatly celebrated and honored as an elder statesman of culture, and the Austrian Government made him a senator. Despite invitations from Brahms to move to Vienna, he preferred to remain home and live his quiet life. Unfortunately during his final years, Dvorak was virtually broke since he had sold his many compositions for so little. He died in 1904, after the debut of Armida, his final opera.