(Born at Mühlhausen [ Nelahozeves] near Kralup, Bohemia,
September 8, 1841; died at Prague, May I, 1904)
THE WINNING and endearing qualities of childhood were in Dvoøák's best music: artless simplicity, irresistible frankness, delight in nature and life. His music was best when it smacked of the soil, when he remembered his early days, the strains of vagabond musicians, the dances dear to his folk. One of a happily primitive people, he delighted in rhythm and color. He was not the man to translate pictures, statues, poems, a system of metaphysics, a gospel of pessimism into music. He was least successful when he would be heroic, mystical, profound. It was an evil day for him when England "discovered" him, patronized him, ordered oratorios from him for her festivals, made him a doctor of music (as though he were a cathedral organist), and tried to turn this Naturmensch into a drawing-room and church celebrity. When Dvoøák is dull, he is very dull. His Slavonic Dances and such a song as "Als die alte Mutter" are worth a wilderness of "St. Ludmilas" and "Heldenlieds." And his work as a creative musician was no doubt at an end when he left this country to go back to his beloved Prague.
Some have been inclined to think lightly of Dvoøák because his best and vital qualities were recognized by the people. This popularity irritated those who believe that pure art is only for the few—the purists; they forget Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin,