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.