History

Antonín Dvořák

The story of the world-famous composer Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), began in the small Bohemian village of Nelahozeves, just outside of Prague. Dvořák was the eldest of nine children born to Anna and František Dvořák. His father was the village butcher and tavern keeper who was known for regularly entertaining tavern guests with his zither playing. Music was omnipresent in the everyday life of the community. The young Dvořák was exposed to many sounds that eventually made their way into his music. At St. Andrew’s Church, just across the street where he was baptized, a young Dvořák would hear the church organs and the voices of the choir. The local teacher and cantor, Josef Spitz, taught him how to play the violin, and Dvořák soon began participating in church performances and the local band. In 1853, Dvořák moved to the nearby town of Zlonice to further his studies before launching a music career that would take him to new musical heights as one of the few Czech composers to achieve worldwide recognition.

Transforming folk rhythms into great Romantic symphonies, Dvořák was credited with defining a Bohemian national style of music and sharing it with the world. His major works, including his Slavonic Dances and renowned opera Rusalka, were celebrated in Prague, Vienna, and London. During his tenure as the first Director of the American Conservatory of Music in New York, Dvořák composed his best-known work, Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” which premiered at Carnegie Hall in December 1893. It was even taken on the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon by Neil Armstrong in 1969.

For all his international acclaim, he never forgot his humble origins. The sights and sounds of his childhood—the clamor of the tavern and the murmuring Vltava River, whistling steam trains and birdsong—all echoed throughout his life and music, always rooted in his beloved Bohemian homeland. 


Dvořák Birth House

Antonín Dvořák’s Birth House, which stands adjacent to Nelahozeves Castle, St. Andrews Church, the historic local train station, and the beautiful Vltava River, dates to the late-16th century. It served as a local tavern, which was the heart of the village of Nelahozeves. In 1842, a major fire broke out which destroyed part of the building. The house was soon rebuilt, followed by later additions that closely resemble its present-day structure. The main building, with its surrounding structures, is a designated cultural monument listed in the official Czech heritage registry. Recognized as the “Antonín Dvořák Memorial” since 1951, the building was administered by the National Museum from 1976–2019, when Lobkowicz Collections o.p.s. took over the outdated house, ancillary buildings, and grounds to transform it into a cohesive musical heritage site.

Museum

The new museum will connect Dvořák's music with the genius loci of his birthplace. With an informative exhibition of historical objects and creative displays, the future museum will explore the sights and sounds of Dvořák’s rural childhood, enhanced by interactive, audio-visual technology. This immersive experience will give visitors of all ages and backgrounds insight into Dvořák’s extraordinary journey from humble origins in Nelahozeves to world-famous composer.

Award-winning U.K. architects Wright & Wright have created a world-class master plan design for the renovation of the house. Ralph Appelbaum Associates, one of the world’s leading museum exhibition design firms, will create a 21st-century immersive and interactive experience for visitors. Engaging multimedia content will add to the authentic atmosphere of the house and will allow visitors to discover the story of Dvořák’s early years. Part of the project team has been working on in-depth historical research, including visiting local archives and museums and consulting with specialists on 19th-century Bohemian practices. Our team is also developing the exhibition’s narrative structure, exploring themes and strategies for interpretation and storytelling. 

Education & Programming

This national landmark will be a cultural center for education, inspiring and nurturing young musical talent with dedicated rehearsal and performance spaces, courses, and workshops that will accommodate age and interest groups of all kinds. Diverse outreach programs will offer new ways to appreciate and engage with Dvořák’s life and music. New landscaping, improved infrastructure, and sustainable environmental development in the Town Square will provide a revitalized setting to host public concerts, events, and activities. The annual Dvořák Nelahozeves Festival, which takes place at Nelahozeves Castle, the Birth House, and around the Town Square every September, will also continue its longstanding tradition.