Some of my all time favorite music is by the Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak. This weekend you can hear all 16 of the Slavonic Dances, Opus 46 and 72 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music. Performing are the duo, Veri & Jamanis in the final of their series, the "Art of the Piano Duo", March 26th, Sunday afternoon at 3pm in the Binns Room (and there's Ice Cream to boot, as it's a Sundae Series - how cool is that?!) Timing is everything, and sometimes it just helps knowing someone...Dvorak entered 15 pieces, including his Symphony No. 3, for the 1874 Austrian National Prize. He not only won and received a generous cash amount but even more importantly, he made a very good connection: Johannes Brahms – who helped judge the Austrian competition. With Brahms’ admiration and support, he put Dvorak in touch with his own publisher, Simrock. Simrock commissioned the popular first set of Slavonic Dances in 1878.
The dances show off the performers, but also they show Dvorak's Czech nationalist style - which was to become his most distinctive characteristic. These incredibly robust pieces, notable for sudden mood switches from exuberant dance tunes to dark and melancholy melodies, were played not only in the musical centers of Europe, but also in the United States (where Dvorak would head to later in his career.)
There's more about Dvorak here.
Hear some of the Slavonic dances here.