Founded 1974
Jakub Hrůša
Graham Melville-Mason
Antonín Dvořák III †
Radomil Eliška
Markéta Hallová
Miloš Jurkovič
Radoslav Kvapil
Alena Němcová
Sylvie Bodorovà

Journal “Czech Music” Volume 18 No. 2 (Abstract)

    Contents of this page

The Beginnings of Dvořák’s Musical Education
by Jarmil Burghauser
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 32-52]

     Dvořák’s family background was a musical one. From an early age Antonín had violin and singing lessons. His move from Nelahozeves to the larger centre of Zlonice was largely in the interests of his musical education where, under Antonín Liehmann, he was taught the organ, piano, violin and basic elements of musical theory. Here too he copied orchestral scores, and made his first attempts at composing. Dvořák then moved to Česká Kamenice in order to learn the German he needed to be accepted at Prague Organ School, while continuing his general musical education. In Prague he would imbibe the broader Czech national influence from Smetana, and the wider European from, among others, Liszt and Wagner.

Tracking the Wrong Indians: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by Peter Alexander
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 52-64]

Dvořák was an eager multi-culturalist and during his stay in the United States took special interest in the music of two minorities: African Americans and native American Indians. While he had ample opportunities to hear the music of the former among the black students with whom he had contact at the American Conservatory, his contacts with an authentic American Indian musical culture are more problematic. He certainly heard live performances by groups of travelling Indians at Spillville, who combined the selling of dubious herbal remedies with spurious native music, with phony drum rhythms pounded out to satisfy gullible white stereotypes.

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The Dvořák Myths in Spillville
by Harvey Klevar and Paul Polansky
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 64-72]

Dvořák’s association with Spillville in 1893 gained for the village fame and respectability for its predominantly Czech inhabitants. From his stay many legends emerged, some offering genuine historical insights and others being mere fabrications. Thus of the twelve non-related families named Dvořák in Spillville, several claimed to have family connections. There were also subsequent stories of Dvořák being frequently drunk, of having regularly visited farms in the area for meals and accommodation, having played the organ in homes, and writing more works in the village than he did. All the myths contributed to making Spillville famous, and subsequent research which doubts these connections remains fiercely resented there.

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What’s American about Dvořák’s ‘American’ Quartet and Quintet?
by Hartmut Schick
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 72-83]

Whether or not the works composed by Dvořák in the United States are really ‘American’ or remain more genuinely Bohemian in style, he still intended them to be the former. The American influence is more strongly evident in the works written in Spillville, the Op. 96 Quartet and Op. 97 Quintet, than in the New World Symphony, which is essentially of late romantic European derivation. The Spillville works conflict with traditional rules of European chamber music logic, exhibiting a pronouncedly programme element, emphasising relaxed outdoor charm rather than intensive thematic development. The melodies and rhythms used by Dvořák, however, are not direct copies of indigenous American folk music, but an attempt to retain its spirit.

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On the Real Value of Yellow Journalism: James Creelman and Antonín Dvořák
by Michael Beckerman
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 83-100]

The New York journalist James Creelman was the likely source of the dubious claim that indigenous Negro melodies would form the foundation for a new national school of American music. Creelman was the probable writer of the article ‘On the Real Value of Negro Melodies’, attributed to Dvořák himself. In this there were significant references and images similar to those in other Creelman articles. His quality as an interviewer may also help to explain the unusually detailed and candid statements on Negro melodies from the composer. On the other hand, Creelman’s account of the genesis of the New World Symphony, claiming it was written in Spillville, was obviously inaccurate.

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Dvořák in a New Role
by John Clapham and Graham Melville-Mason
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 100-126]

Dvořák’s stay in the United States coincided with a period of severe economic depression and industrial unrest. This in turn had an impact on musical benefactors such as Mrs. Thurber, who had just offered Dvořák a contract as nominal Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. Her insolvency for some time led to Dvořák’s salary being paid irregularly, affecting his own financial situation. None the less, he contributed through a major concert to the New York Herald’s appeal for donations towards a national clothing fund to help the destitute. Much was made in the newspaper of Dvořák’s initiative, which also cast some reflected glory on Mrs. Thurber, the Herald itself, and the National Conservatory.

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The Case against Bohuslav Martinů
by Michael Henderson
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 127-133]

Martinů is accused of following loosely just about every musical fashion of his day. Various Martinů works of his Paris period are thus compared unfavourably with compositions by Stravinsky, Bartok and Honegger, seeing him as a seagull coming in to feed on the virgin soil turned over by more original composers of his time. Isolated works like the ‘magical’ Julietta and the Concerto for Flute and Violin are more positively judged. Other promising works are viewed as flawed by anticlimactic final movements. The major works of Martinů’s American period are also dismissed as ‘the great seagull following the tractor’. Martinů is finally compared with Berlioz, in composing music characterised by ‘spontaneity, the unexpected and rhythmic vitality at the expense of structure and workmanship’.

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The Case for Bohuslav Martinů
by Michael Henderson
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 18, No.2 (1994), pp. 133-145]

Far from being merely eclectic, Martinů is shown to have influenced composers such as Honegger and Frank Martin rather than the reverse. Indeed, the presence of eclecticism, drawing here on a fascinating range of sources, is regarded as a strength. Some of the academic disapproval stems from the sheer size of his output, and also the fact that early recordings excluded many of Martinů’s masterpieces. Criticism also has not taken account of the political and personal contexts in which Martinů’s best music was written, cruelly cut off as he was from his homeland by the events of 1938 and 1948, saddened by the early deaths of friends, and the murder of Czech musicians by the Nazis. It was in response that the composer wrote some of his defiant and noble later works, touching the heart of, among others, Shostakovich.

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