Antonin Dvořák was one of the great nationalist Czech composers of the 19th century who earned worldwide proclaim and admiration for his symphonies, chamber music, oratorios, songs and to a small extent, operas.
Dvořák was born in 1841 in Nelahozeves, the eldest son of a butcher and innkeeper who played the zither. In the village school, the teacher and Kantor, Joseph Spitz taught him the violin and he made such rapid progress that before long, he was participating in the musical life of the region, playing popular melodies such as polkas, mazurkas and waltzes and church music at local services. In autumn 1856, Dvořák was sent to the northern Bohemian town of Česká Kamenice to learn organ, music theory and German, which was essential in Bohemia at the time. A year later he began studies at the Prague Organ School and the musical life of the city was a major breeding ground for his creativity: he played the viola in the concerts of the Cecelia Society, which included works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Spohr and Schumann and attended many inspiring concerts. He had the chance to hear Franz Liszt performing his own works and attended concerts with Hans von Bülow conducting and Clara Schumann performing.