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. 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.
In the winter and spring of 1893, while in New York, Dvořák wrote Symphony No.9, "From the New World". He spent the summer of 1893 with his family in the Czech-speaking community of Spillville, Iowa, to which some of his cousins had earlier immigrated. While there he composed the String Quartet in F (the "American"), and the String Quintet in E flat, as well as a Sonatina for violin and piano.
Over the course of three months in 1895, Dvořák wrote his Cello Concerto in B minor. However, problems with Mrs. Thurber about his salary, together with increasing recognition in Europe — he had been made an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna — and homesickness made him decide to return to Bohemia. He left New York before the end of the spring term.
Dvořák's New York home was located at 327 East 17th Street near Perlman Place. It was in this home that the Ninth Symphony was written. Despite protests, from the then Czech President Václav Havel amongst others, who wanted the house preserved as a historical site, it was demolished to make room for a Beth Israel Medical Center residence for people with AIDS. To honor Dvořák, however, a statue of him was erected in Stuyvesant Square.
He left many unfinished works, including the early Cello Concerto in A major (see Concerti below).
Dvořák wrote in a variety of forms: his nine symphonies generally stick to classical models that Beethoven would have recognised, but he also worked in the newly developed symphonic poem form and the influence of Richard Wagner is apparent in some works. Many of his works also show the influence of Czech folk music, both in terms of rhythms and melodic shapes; perhaps the best known examples are the two sets of Slavonic Dances. Dvořák also wrote operas (the best known of which is Rusalka); serenades for string orchestra and wind ensemble; chamber music (including a number of string quartets, and quintets); songs; choral music; and piano music.
All of Dvořák's works were chronologically catalogued by Jarmil Burghauser in Antonín Dvořák. Thematic Catalogue. Bibliography. Survey of Life and Work (Export Artia, Prague, 1960). As an example, in the Burghauser catalogue, the New World Symphony, Op. 95 is B.178. Scholars today often refer to Dvořák's works by their B numbers (for Burghauser), although references to the traditional opus numbers are still common, in part because the opus numbers have historical continuity with all earlier scores and printed programs. The opus numbers, in fact, are still more likely to appear in printed programs for performances.
Symphony No. 1 in C minor was written when Dvořák was 24 years old. Later subtitled The Bells of Zlonice after a village in Dvořák's native Bohemia, it shows inexperience but also genius with its many attractive qualities. It has many formal similarities with Beethoven's 5th Symphony (for example, the movements follow the same keys: C minor, A flat major, C minor, C major), yet in harmony and instrumentation, Dvořák's First follows the style of Franz Schubert. (Some material from this symphony was reused in the Silhouettes, Opus 8, for piano solo.)
Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 4, still takes Beethoven as a model, though this time in a brighter, more pastoral light.
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 10, clearly shows the sudden and profound impact of Dvořák's recent acquaintance with the music of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt; there is no scherzo. (A portion of the slow movement was reused in the sixth of the Legends, Opus 59, for piano duet or orchestra.)
Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 13, still shows a strong influence of Wagner, particularly the second movement, which is reminiscent of the overture to Tannhäuser. In contrast, the scherzo is strongly Czech in character.
Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76, and Symphony No. 6 in D major, Op. 60, are largely pastoral in nature, and brush away nearly all the last traces of Wagnerian style. The Fifth has a dark slow movement that seems to quote Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto for its main theme. The Sixth shows a very strong resemblance to the Symphony No. 2 of Brahms, particularly in the outer movements, though this similarity is belied by the third-movement furiant, a vivid Czech dance.
Symphony No. 7 in D minor of 1885, Op. 70, is sometimes reckoned to exhibit more formal tautness and greater intensity than the more famous 9th Symphony. There is emotional torment in the Seventh that may reflect personal troubles: around this time, Dvořák was struggling to have his Czech operas accepted in Vienna, feeling pressure to write operas in German, and arguing with his publisher. His sketches show that the Seventh cost him much hard work and soul-searching.
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, is, in contrast with the 7th, characterized by a warmer and more optimistic tone. Karl Schumann (in booklet notes for a recording of all the symphonies by Rafael Kubelík) compares it to the works of Gustav Mahler. As with the 7th, some feel the 8th is the best of the symphonies. That some critics feel it necessary to promote a symphony as "better than the 9th" shows how the immense popularity of the 9th has overshadowed the earlier works.
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, may be better known by its subtitle, From the New World, and is also called the New World Symphony. Dvořák wrote it between January and May 1893, while he was in New York. At the time of its first performance, he claimed that he used elements from American music such as spirituals and Native American music in this work, but he later denied this. The first movement has a solo flute passage reminiscent of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", and one of his students later reported that the second movement depicted, programmatically, the sobbing of Hiawatha. The second movement was so reminiscent of a negro spiritual that William Arms Fisher wrote lyrics for it and called it "Goin' Home". Dvořák was interested in indigenous American music, but in an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, he wrote, "[In the 9th symphony] I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music." Neil Armstrong took a recording of the New World Symphony to the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, in 1969.
Dvořák's symphonic poems (tone poems) are among his most original symphonic works. He wrote five symphonic poems, all in 1896-1897, and they have sequential opus numbers: The Water Goblin, Op. 107; The Noon Witch, Op. 108; The Golden Spinning Wheel, Op. 109; The Wood Dove, Op. 110; and The Hero's Song, Op. 111. The first four of these works are based upon ballads by the Czech folklorist Karel Erben. The Hero's Song is based on a program of Dvořák's devising and is believed to be autobiographical.
The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 33 was the first of three concertos that Dvořák composed and orchestrated, and it is perhaps the least known of those three. Dvořák composed his piano concerto from late August through September 14, 1876. Its autograph version contains many corrections, erasures, cuts and additions, the bulk of these made in the piano part. The work was premiered in Prague on March 24, 1878, with the orchestra of the Prague Provisional Theatre conducted by Adolf Čech, and the Czech pianist Karel Slavkovský as soloist. As Dvořák wrote: "I see I am unable to write a Concerto for a virtuoso; I must think of other things." Instead, what Dvořák thought of and created was a concerto with remarkable symphonic values in which the piano plays a leading part in the orchestra rather than opposed to it. The Czech pianist and piano teacher Professor Vilém Kurz subsequently wrote an alternative, somewhat more virtuosic piano part for the concerto, which may, depending on the performer's preference, be played either partially or entirely in lieu of Dvořák's part. In 1919 concert pianist Ilona Kurzová played the first performance of the Kurz version, conducted by Václav Talich.
The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 53 was the second of the three concertos that Dvořák composed and orchestrated. He had met the great violinist Joseph Joachim in 1878 and decided to write a concerto for him. He finished it in 1879, but Joachim was skeptical of the work. He was a strict classicist and objected to Dvořák's inter alia or his abrupt truncation of the first movement's orchestral tutti, and he also did not like that the recapitulation was similarly cut short and that it led directly to the slow movement. He never actually played the piece. The concerto was premiered in 1883 in Prague by the violinist František Ondříček, who subsequently performed it in its debuts in Vienna and London. The second (slow) movement is especially celebrated for its lyricism.
The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104 was the last composed of Dvořák's concertos. He wrote it in 1894-1895 for his friend, the cellist Hanuš Wihan. Wihan and others had asked for a cello concerto for some time, but Dvořák always refused, stating that the cello was a fine orchestral instrument but completely insufficient for a solo concerto.
Dvořák composed the concerto in New York while serving as the Director of the National Conservatory. In 1894 Victor Herbert, who was also teaching at the Conservatory, had written a cello concerto and presented it in a series of concerts. Dvořák attended at least two performances of Victor Herbert's cello concerto and was inspired to fulfill Wihan's request for a cello concerto. Dvořák's concerto received its premiere in London on March 16, 1896, with the English cellist Leo Stern. The work was well received. Brahms said of the work: "Had I known that one could write a cello concerto like this, I would have written one long ago!"
Over thirty years earlier in 1865, Dvořák had composed a Cello Concerto in A major, but with accompaniment by piano rather than orchestra. It is believed Dvořák had intended to orchestrate it, but abandoned it. It was orchestrated by the German composer Günter Raphael between 1925 and 1929, and again by his cataloguer Jarmil Burghauser and published in this form in 1952 as B.10.
There is speculation by Dvořák scholars such as Michael Beckerman that portions of his Symphony No. 9 "From the New World", notably the second movement, were adapted from studies for a never-written opera about Hiawatha.
List of operas