Antonín Dvorák

Antonín Dvorák was born in the little Czech village of Nelahozeves, in humble circumstances that were more conducive to a career as a publican or butcher rather than an artist. But the boy’s manifest talent soon showed that music could change everything. Which it did. Dvorák conquered literally the whole world and is one of the best known Czechs to this day.

Gone are the old notions of a young Dvorák being prevented from following his musical dreams by an unappreciative father. Dvorák came from a nurturing family background, which was always equally as important to him as his urge to compose. This compulsion of his, his spontaneity and musicality, is linked with another myth, which presented Dvorák as a simple soul who was unaware of his talent and merely wrote “what came from within”. Dvorák’s ingenious sense of melody was turned against him in the assessment of many critics, who perceived a lack of sophistication in his works. However, after numerous musicological analyses and new editorial treatments of his music, we can now declare with full conviction that the very opposite is true. The deep-rooted image of the unwitting genius, whose output is intuitive and absent of real intellectual reflection, is utterly at odds with the documentary evidence of Dvorák’s compositional process. Sketches, drafts, scores, lists of corrections, his correspondence with publishers, first edition proofs, and the existence of multiple versions of a single work disprove the impression of unaffectedness that emanates from the compositions, whereas their genesis often posits them as the fruit of profound searching and highly critical deliberation (Dvorák actually destroyed some of his works).

Today, free of these decades-long misinterpretations, we can state that Dvorák’s riveting melodies are balanced with refined harmonies, varied rhythmicality, formal finesse, and exceptional instrumentation. This marriage of natural talent and supreme compositional mastery makes Antonín Dvorák one of the greatest composers of the second half of the nineteenth century with the power to appeal to audiences throughout the world. His artistic legacy is rightly regarded as a treasure of our global cultural heritage.

The composer’s diverse oeuvre encompasses all genres and deserves the utmost care of researchers and editors alike. With our Prague branch, Bärenreiter has positioned Dvorák as one of the core pillars of our publishing programme. The new Urtext editions of individual compositions represent the pinnacle of contemporary research and offer the perfect service to musicians. Now almost complete, the Urtext series of the composer’s songs, concertos, or symphonic works paint a new, truthful picture of Antonín Dvorák.

Eva Velická