I dont understand how there has been no thread for Dvorak so far?!
He is my absolute favorite composer. He mastered every form he touched, Symphonies (4,6,7,8,9), Opera (rusalka), Chamber music (string quartets, piano trios etc..), Concertos (violin and cello), Tone Poems (loads of these).
The finale from the 7th symphony is particulalry beautiful.
The 9th symphony is one of the most popular in the repertoire.
The 12th string quartet is amazing
The cello concerto is apparently the most recorded cello concerto.
The Dumky Trio is just amazing too.
The 8th symphony, and the 4th are incredibly good.
The American Suite is magnificent
Rondo For cello and orchestra is an underrated masterpiece, as is mazurka for violin and orchestra.
Humoresques and Slavonic Dances are very well loved.
Coming from a very humble background and never becoming rich despite his success - his music has a very down to earth quality, it never becomes pompous or bombastic, but retains a tremendous amount of emotion. I have found that within 20 bars he can capture solemnity, joy, hopefulness, sorrow, and a whole range of others.
He was the biggest influence on Czech music ever, basically leading the Bohemian Nationalism after Smetana created it.
He also had a huge influence on american music and became director of the New York Conservatory. He taught the teachers of Duke Ellignton, Gershwin and Copland and Realised that american music should come from that of the blacks and indians.
When He died he left 9 children and a wife, his son in law was Josef Suk. He was given a state funeral in Prague.
The 9th Symphony (which was the 5th when I was a kid) was the first piece of music in which I finally noticed the idea of thematic development - of taking little motifs and putting them through a meat grinder to see what comes out. It was quite an eye opener for a 10 year old.
Now I feel I never have to hear it again due to over exposure. But even after all these years I was able to hear something new in it by watching a DVD of it. By zooming in on the orchestra I could see the string players' fingers and realized what I thought was a separate 4 note motif in the 1st movement was really the same 3 note motif heard earlier with an extra beat at the begining (played by brass) and accented a little differently. Very simple, but disguised enough I never heard the similarity in decades of listeneing until I saw it. (If I had a score I could point to the exact measures of what I'm referring to.)
Dvorak is one composer I can recognize almost instantly upon first hearing a piece. He often seems to use the same distinct chordal structures. It's like a signature.
I don't think I've heard a piece by him I didn't like, but I often think of him as -- I don't know -- too normal? There shouldn't be anything wrong with that though. It's fantastic normal music when I give it a chance.