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News > New World Diplomacy: Dvorak’s Contract

New World Diplomacy: Dvorak’s Contract

Majda Kallab Whitaker 25 September, 2013

On September 8th, the Dvorak American Heritage Association (DAHA) unveiled its exhibition of the contract that brought Antonin Dvorak to America, featuring the original 1892 document signed by Dvorak and recently acquired by DAHA. 


Timed to coincide with Dvorak’s 172nd birthday, the event included a lecture by exhibition curator Majda Kallab Whitaker, who gave an overview of the intriguing negotiations between the Czech composer and his American patron, Jeannette Thurber, the visionary founder and president of the National Conservatory of Music of America. The contract set the stage for Dvorak’s American residency from 1892 to 1895, during which time he composed his masterwork, the “New World” Symphony, drawing inspiration from African American and Native American melodies.  Thurber, who had a flair for publicity, offered Dvorak a fortune to serve as director of her conservatory, and kept the composer’s name in the press throughout his residency.


Top left photo by Roman Franc. Right photo: Portrait of Antonin Dvorak from The Century Magazine (detail), September 1892. Both images courtesy of DAHA.


Dvorak’s Dumky and selected Slavonic Dances were performed by talented young musicians from Mannes College The New School for Music and The Juilliard School of Music. The highlight of the festive reception was a giant birthday cake with musical decoration.


Left to right: DAHA President Susan Lucak, Pianist Anna Royzman, Violinist Hojin  Kim, Pianist Natalie-Marfincova-Berlin, Cellist Jeanne Dorche, and DAHA Exhibition Curator and Speaker, Majda Kallab Whitaker. Photo: courtesy of DAHA.



Celebrating Antonin Dvorak's 172nd birthday. View of the birthday reception, with special cake. Photo: courtesy of DAHA.


Majda Kallab Whitaker is an independent scholar and curatorial consultant, and as a Board Member of the Dvorak American Heritage Association, acts as project director of the Dvorak Room in the Bohemian National Hall. A graduate of Bard Graduate Center and Vassar College, she curates exhibitions and lectures on subjects related to late nineteenth and early twentieth century cultural and design history. She was born in Prague, and recently joined the Board of BBLA.





Bohemian Benevolent & Literary AssociationHospodaThe National Czech and Slovak MuseumAmerican Friends of the Czech RepublicCzech CenterConsulate General