We know Dvorak is known for coming to America and writing the New World Symphony, but what was his life truly like and why did he come to America? When thinking of Dvorak and American music, it was always my understanding that Dvorak came to America because he was curious about the culture and wanted to compose music that incorporated a sense of American culture. Dvorak came to America because he was offered a more than decent paying job with some pretty irresistible attributes. What was so enticing for Dvorak to pack up and leave his hometown Nelahozeves in the Czech Republic and endure a sickening 9 day transatlantic voyage on the SS Saale was Jeannette Thurber who “offered Dvořák an annual salary of $15,000, about 25 times what he was currently earning as a professor at the Prague Conservatoire.” 1
Dvořák with his wife, children, and friends in New York.
More along the lines of Dvorak’s life in America, we can get an idea from a multitude of letters he had written. In these letters he talks about concerts, premieres, the National Conservatory, and his family.
“The first and chief thing is that, thanks be to God, we are all well and liking it here very much. And why shouldn’t we when it is so lovely and free here and one can live so much more peacefully and that is what I need… The orchestra here, which I heard in Brooklyn, is excellent, 100 musicians, mostly German as is also the conductor.” 3
In this letter from Dvorak to The Parker House, we get a clear idea of how he and his family is settling in as well as what the caliber of orchestral musicians are like in America.