Antonín Leopold Dvořák (English pronunciation: /ˈdvɒrʒɑːk/ DVOR-zhahk or /ˈdvɒrʒæk/ DVOR-zhak; Czech: ( listen); September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904) was a Czech composer of Romantic music, who employed the idioms and melodies of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. His works include operas, symphonic, choral and chamber music. His best-known works include his New World Symphony (particularly the second and fourth movements), as well as his Slavonic Dances, "American" String Quartet, and Cello Concerto in B minor.
Dvořák was born on September 8, 1841 in Nelahozeves, near Prague (then Austrian Empire, today the Czech Republic), where he spent most of his life. His father František Dvořák (1814-1894) was a butcher, innkeeper, and professional player of the zither. Dvořák's parents recognized his musical talent early, and he received his earliest musical education at the village school which he entered in 1847, age 6. From 1857 to 1859 he studied music in Prague's only Organ School, and gradually developed into an accomplished player of the violin and the viola. Throughout the 1860s he played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theater Orchestra, which from 1866 was conducted by Bedřich Smetana. The need to supplement his income by teaching left Dvořák with limited free time, and in 1871 he gave up playing in the orchestra in order to compose. During this time, Dvořák fell in love with one of his pupils, Josefína Čermáková, and wrote a song cycle, Cypress Trees, for her. She never returned his love, however, and married another man. In 1873 Dvořák married Josefína's younger sister, Anna. They had nine children together.
At about this time Dvořák began to be recognized as a significant composer. He became organist at St. Adalbert's Church, Prague, and began a period of prolific composition. Dvořák composed his second string quintet in 1875, and in 1877, the critic Eduard Hanslick informed him that his music had attracted the attention of Johannes Brahms, whom he later befriended. Brahms contacted the musical publisher Simrock, who as a result commissioned Dvořák's first set of Slavonic Dances. Published in 1878, these were an immediate success. Dvořák's Stabat Mater (1880) was performed abroad, and after a successful performance in London in 1883, Dvořák was invited to visit England where he appeared to great acclaim in 1884. His Symphony No. 7 was written for London; it premiered there in 1885. Dvořák visited England nine times in total, he often conducted his own works there. In 1890, influenced by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, he also visited Russia, and conducted the orchestras in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. In 1891 Dvořák received an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge, and his Requiem premiered later that year in Birmingham at the Triennial Music Festival.