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The Antonín Dvořák Society

For Committee of The Dvořák Society (list of members) click here.

The Antonín Dvořák Society is an association of admirers of the musical legacy of the composer Antonín Dvořák (born 8 September 1841 in Nelahozeves, died 1 May 1904 in Prague). Based in the Czech Republic, it has been in existence for almost three quarters of a century now. Its current chair is the conductor Radomil Eliška.

The society was founded on 29 March 1931, originally as the ‘Society for Erection of a Monument to Master Antonín Dvořák in Prague’. After years of unsuccessful efforts to adorn Prague with a Dvořák monument, in 1944 the organisation was renamed as simply the ‘Antonín Dvořák Society’. In 2000, at last, Jan Wagner produced a larger-than-life statue of the composer based on a model made by his father Josef Wagner, on the occasion of the project ‘Prague: A City of Culture’ as part of a collaborative effort of the Antonín Dvořák Society, the City of Prague, and other co-organisers and sponsors. The statue was erected in front of Prague’s Rudolfinum–home of the Czech Philharmonic whose first concert was conducted in 1896 by Dvořák, and also his place of work from 1891 to 1904 as a professor at and then director of the city’s conservatory which was housed in the building at that time.

One of the society’s two most important accomplishments has been establishment of the Antonín Dvořák Museum on 20 June 1932, not long after the society itself was founded. On that day the gates were opened for the first time to Michna’s Baroque summer palace in Prague’s New Town, which houses the museum to this day, and the first collection of memorabilia pertaining to the famous composer was presented, assembled by members of the society in collaboration with Dvořák’s family. Later, in 1951, the society shared in founding the Antonín Dvořák Memorial in Nelahozeves, in the house where the composer was born.

Another major achievement of the ADS was its establishment in 1954 of an editorial commission for a Collected Edition of the Works of Antonín Dvořák. This commission functioned until the end of the 1990s and succeeded in publishing most of the composer’s works. Its members over the course of time included Otakar Šourek (author of the monumental four-volume monograph on Dvořák’s life and work, who chaired the commission), Dr. Antonín Čubr, František Bartoš, Dr. Jiří Berkovec, Dr. Jarmil Burghauser, Jan Hanuš, Ladislav Láska, Antonín Pokorný, and Karel Šolc.

The Antonín Dvořák Society was founded at the instigation of the composer’s devoted aid during the time of his sojourn in America, the Czech-American violinist and later violist Josef Jan Kovařík. Among the organisation’s founding members we find the names of the players in the Czech Quartet–violinist Karel Hoffmann, violinist and composer Josef Suk (Dvořák’s son-in-law and pupil), violist Jiří Herold, and cellist Ladislav Zelenka–as well as the composers Vítězslav Novák and Rudolf Karel (also pupils of Dvořák) and other admirers such as the above-mentioned Otakar Šourek, pianists Karel Hoffmeister and Roman Veselý, and the painter and caricaturist Hugo Boettinger. Those who have actively shared in cultivating Dvořák’s legacy through the Antonín Dvořák Society have included above all its chairs, namely Dr. Maxmilián Leiser, Dr.h.c. Josef Suk (composer), Dr. Richard Stretti, Dalibor C. Vačkář, Dr. Jarmil Burghauser, Radoslav Kvapil, and currently Prof. Radomil Eliška. Named honorary chair of the ADS in 1997 was the composer Jan Hanuš, a long-time member of the commission for editing Dvořák’s works. Persons who have worked selflessly for the ADS for many years have also included especially Jan Miroslav Květ, Dr. Karel Mikysa, Jindřich Jaroš, Dr. Václav Tvrzník, Marie Mikysová, and Eva Šebková along with many others.

Today the Antonín Dvořák Society has about 250 members and has regained the legal independence it lost during the socialist era in Czechoslovakia, when it was forced to turn its collections over to the state–a condition for being able to continue its activities, under an umbrella institution, the Czech Music Society, from 1983 to 1990. Since 15 September 1991 the ADS has been an independent association with full legal status.

Primarily in collaboration with the Antonín Dvořák Museum, the society is continuing to promote the legacy of Dvořák both at home and abroad. It organises concerts, discussion sessions, and trips. For example with support from the composer’s great grandson, the violinist Josef Suk, it organises each year in Křečovice, the native village of the composer Josef Suk, a commemorative concert and a ceremony at his grave. Each year it also shares in organising a commemorative event at Dvořák’s tomb at Vyšehrad on or around 1 May, and around 8 September a morning lecture and concert in the house where he was born in Nelahozeves. It co-operates with the Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music in Great Britain (chaired by Graham Melville-Mason), and with Radoslav Kvapil’s newly-established International Dvořák Society. The renown of the ADS abroad was enhanced especially by the Dvořák scholar, musicologist, composer, and choir master Dr. Jarmil Burghauser who continued the work of Otakar Šourek, preparing the Thematic Catalogue of the Works of Antonín Dvořák (1960, 2nd revised and expanded edition 1996), and initiating a new wave of interest in musicological evaluation of Dvořák’s works both at home and abroad, reflected in scholarly conferences held by the Czech Music Society–Antonín Dvořák Society in the 1980s culminating in an international congress devoted to Dvořák in Dobříš in 1991.

In recent years the ADS has shared in placing memorial plaques commemorating Dvořák’s stays at the stately homes of Sychrov and Lužany and in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad), as well as elsewhere including of course Prague, in front of the Dvořák Hall in the Rudolfinum. It has also preserved the memory of Dvořák’s pupils, especially Josef Suk, Vítězslav Novák, Oskar Nedbal, Julius Fučík, and Rudolf Karel.

The Antonín Dvořák Society contributed in various ways to celebrations in 2004 of the centenary of Dvořák’s death, which UNESCO included in its list of anniversaries of worldwide significance. One of the society’s projects was the mounting of a memorial plaque on the Church of St. Adalbert (svatý Vojtěch) in Prague to commemorate Dvořák’s service as organist there as a young man from 15 February 1874 until sometime in 1877, during which period he composed the first version, with piano accompaniment, of his celebrated Stabat mater for chorus, soloists, and orchestra.

Dr. Markéta Hallová

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Naposledy změněno: 20.9.2010