Composers Datebook®

Dvořák gets paid

Antonin Dvořák (1841 - 1904) String Quintet in E, Op. 97 Vlach Quartet Naxos 8.553376

Composer's Datebook - June 1, 2021


June 01, 2021


In 1891, the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak was earning about $3000 a year teaching at the National Conservatory of Prague. Mrs. Jeannette Thurber, the wealthy founder of a National Conservatory of New York offered Dvorak FIVE TIMES his Prague salary to come to America, where his teaching load would be significantly less.

Even so, Dvorak was reluctant to leave his native land, but his wife suggested the family should vote on Mrs. Thurber’s offer. Dvorak’s son, Otakar recalled the vote “for” America wasn’t unanimous but did prevail, so papa signed the contract – then let it sit on his desk until Mom took matters in her own hand – literally – and posted it back to America. Dvorak followed in due course.

On today’s date in 1893, Dvorak wrapped up his first academic year in America by signing a receipt for his May salary before setting off with the family for a summer vacation in the Czech-speaking settlement of Spillville, Iowa. 

No doubt he would be astonished to learn that in our time a dealer in celebrity signatures put that receipt up for sale. The salary stub was for $937.50. The asking price for the yellowed slip of paper bearing Dvorak’s signature?  $2750!

Music Played in Today's Program

Antonin Dvořák (1841 - 1904) String Quintet in E, Op. 97 Vlach Quartet Naxos 8.553376

On This Day


  • 1653 - Baptismal date of Baroque composer Georg Muffat, in Megève (Savoy);

  • 1771 - Italian composer Ferdinando Paër, in Parma;

  • 1804 - Russian composer Mikail Glinka, in Novospasskoye (now Glinka), near Yelnya, Smolensk District (Julian date: May 20);

  • 1929 - Canadian-born American composer Yehudi Wyner, in Calgary;


  • 1639 - German composer Melchior Franck, age c. 60, in Coburg;

  • 1909 - Italian composer Giuseppe Martucci, age 53, in Naples;


  • 1853 - Liszt: "Fantasy on Themes from Beethoven's Ruins of Athens" and "Fantasy on Hungarian Themes" for piano and orchestra, in Budapest;

  • 1869 - Smetana: opera "The Bartered Bride" (third of four versions), in Prague at the Provisional Theater;

  • 1925 - Bloch: Concerto Grosso No. 1 for strings and piano, in Cleveland, with the composer conducting;

  • 1932 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 12 ("Collective Farm Symphony"), in Moscow, by the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra, Albert Coates conducting;

  • 1988 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: "Symbolon" for orchestra, in Leningrad (USSR), by the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta conducting;

  • 1991 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "Ojai Festival Overture," in the Ojai Valley north of Los Angeles, by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with the composer conducting;


  • 1723 - J.S. Bach is formally inducted as cantor at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig;

  • 1728 - The Royal Academy of Music folds in London following a revival performance of Handel's opera "Admeto" (Gregorian date: June 12);

  • 1750 - Handel makes out his will, leaving to John Christopher Smith (the elder) "my large harpsichord, my little house organ, my musick books, and 500 pounds sterling" and the rest to his niece Johanna Floerken; On August 4, 1757, Handel modifies his will, leaving his theater organ to John Rich, some paintings to Charles Jennens and Bernard Granville, and "a fair copy of the score and all parts" of "Messiah" to the Foundling Hospital; In of April 1759, Handel bequeaths 1000 pounds to the Society for the Support of Decayed Musicians, and directs that 600 pounds be used for his monument in Westminster Abbey; These dates are all according to the Julian calendar still in use in England, but not in the rest of Europe, in Handel's day (add 11 days to convert to the Gregorian calendar).