Monday, October 5, 2015

October Composer of the Month: Antonin Dvorak

     As piano players, sometimes it's important to look to the wider world of music for things we can learn. The beautiful melodies of Antonin Dvorak have a lot to teach us, and his music is fun to listen to! This month's listening assignment is the second movement (section) of Dvorak's famous Symphony Number 9, "From the New World."

     Dvorak was a type of Romantic composer called a "nationalist." A nationalist is a person who uses the melodies and rhythms of their native land to create new and expressive music. Dvorak encouraged others to use the unique music of their native countries to add to the world of music as well.

    Antonin Dvorak was born on September 8, 1841, in what is now the Czech Republic. As a young man, he learned to play the violin, piano, and organ. In 1874, 1876, and 1877, Dvorak entered and won the Austrian State Prize for Composition. Johannes Brahms served as a judge and was very impressed with Dvorak's work.

     From 1892-1895, Dvorak lived in the United States and worked as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. While there, he formed an interest in African American and Native American folk music. He believed that both of these styles of music ought to form the basis of America's own nationalist music. Dvorak was saddened and surprised by the mistreatment of African Americans and Native Americans and the prejudice he observed while living in the United States.

     Dvorak returned home to Bohemia in 1895, where he lived until his death on May 1, 1904. Dvorak is remembered to this day as a great musical master, an inspiring teacher, and one of the great composers of European music.