Antonín Dvořák and Nelahozeves
"While you’re there, look up the small village with the long name of Nelahozeves. And you will see a plain building there, right beneath the castle of the Lobkowicz princes…do you see it? — my father had a tavern there, which he also used as a butcher’s shop. I was born in that house and spent the entirety of my modest childhood in that beloved region."
Antonín Dvořák, quoted according to Václav Novotný, Dvořák in England, 1911
Antonín Dvořák was born September 8, 1841, in Nelahozeves, the first son of Anna and František Dvořák, who was a butcher and innkeeper. The family first lived at No. 24, which was also the local butcher’s shop. Then they moved to the so-called Tavern Engelhardt at No. 12 and took over its ownership as innkeepers. This is where Antonín Dvořák was born and where the Dvořák Festival is held in part today.
Dvořák spent the first twelve years of his life in Nelahozeves and began his musical training there. The local cantor Josef Spitz taught him violin, and the young Dvořák soon began performing in the village band and at St. Andrew’s Church, where he was also christened. Nelahozeves’s many everyday sights and sounds would influence Dvořák throughout his life and gave him inspiration for his more mature compositional output. Set against the majestic backdrop of the Vltava, these everyday surroundings surely included the abundant countryside landscape, verdant nature, and the railroad, which was first built in the Nelahozeves area during Dvořák’s childhood. Dvořák became familiar with various musical genres during his time in Nelahozeves, such as liturgical music, folk music (most likely from his father’s tavern), and dance music used in the dance hall at No. 12. Dvořák’s father František was musically talented and often entertained guests with his zither-playing.
In 1853, Antonín graduated from the municipal school as one of the best in his class and moved to nearby Zlonice so he could continue his musical training with cantor Antonín Liehmann. There, his musical career began to thrive, and he continued his studies in Česká Kamenice, where he stayed for a year before he subsequently began studying organ at the Institute for Church Music in Prague (1857–1859).
Dvořák achieved critical success and acclaim both at home and abroad, and his career reached its peak in America, where he was appointed Director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, established in New York City, for three years. His Symphony No. 9 in E minor (New World Symphony) also received its premiere in the renowned Carnegie Hall in 1893. Although he never returned to Nelahozeves permanently, memories of his childhood home stayed with him throughout his entire life.
The 70th Season at a glance
The 70th Dvořák Nelahozeves Classical Music Festival is successfully behind us, and we are eagerly awaiting the next one! Dedicated to Dvořák’s 180th birth anniversary, this year’s season was exceptionally well-received, and we could not have asked for better weather or attendance. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the organizers and partners of the festival, performers, and, of course, guests.
© Anna Marie Němcová, Veronika Graulíková
Practical and Contact Info
The festival takes place on September 10 in the municipality of Nelahozeves, about 25 km north of Prague.
- By car: highway D8, exit 18 – Nová Ves
Parking is available on the castle grounds
- By train: “Nelahozeves zámek” station
- By bike: The Vltava bike path