Dvorak studied with Antonin Liehmann and at the Prague Organ School (1857-1859). As he was a capable viola player, Dvorak joined the band that became the nucleus of the new Provisional Theatre orchestra, conducted from 1866 by Smetana. Private teaching and mainly composing occupied him from 1873 and forward and he won the Austrian State Stipendium three times (1874, 1876-1877), gaining the attention of Brahms, who secured the publisher Simrock for some of his works in 1878. Foreign performances multiplied, notably of the Slavonic Dances, the Sixth Symphony and the Stabat mater, and with them further commissions. These were particularly well received in England and Dvorak wrote The Spectre's Bride (1884) and the Requiem Mass (1890) for Birmingham, the Seventh Symphony for the Philharmonic Society (1885) and St. Ludmilla for Leeds (1886), besides receiving an honorary doctorate from Cambridge.
Dvorak visited Russia in 1890, continued to launch new works in Prague and London and began teaching at the Prague Conservatory in 1891 (where Joseph Suk was among his most gifted pupils). Before leaving for the USA he toured Bohemia playing the new Dumky Trio. As director of the National Conservatory in New York (1892-1895) he taught composition, meanwhile producing the wellknown Ninth Symphony ("From the New World"), the String Quartet in F, the String Quintet in E-flat and the Cello Concerto. Financial strain and family ties took him back to Prague, where he began to write symphonic poems and finally had his efforts at dramatic music rewarded with the success of the fairytale opera Rusalka (1901). The recipient of honours and awards from all sides, he remained a modest man of simple tastes, loyal to his Czech nationality.