- Did you know?
The fixed notion of Dvorak as a composer for whom writing music required no great effort or intellectual reflection, that it simply came to him at the snap of his fingers, has no basis in fact. The sense of immediacy the listener appreciates in the majority of his works was in many cases the result of an intensive period of searching. Dvorak rewrote numerous works, some several times before he was satisfied with the outcome. Other works were preceded by serious deliberation before he began writing the first few bars. The fact that he destroyed certain compositions which disappointed him testifies to his high level of self-criticism. Then again, we have evidence to indicate that a number of works were written within a remarkably short space of time.
The manner in which Dvorak worked does little to suggest the behaviour of a romantic who creates his art in a state of rapture, having suffered the blows fate has dealt him. He would get up in the “unromantic” early hours and, after his usual morning walk, he always sat down to work. He composed for about three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, a routine he would maintain with almost iron regularity. Sometimes he also wrote on his travels. Ideas that occurred to him were noted down on pieces of paper, in his sketchbook, and even on the cuff of his shirt sleeve, if no paper was to hand. His composition work essentially occupied his mind continually, thus he was preoccupied and sometimes walked off in the middle of a conversation without a word. When Dvorak was writing a new work he always began with a brief sketch, which he then orchestrated and elaborated in greater detail. Later on in his career he generally no longer used a piano during his composition work, and only played through larger sections once they were written down. The scores contain a large number of corrections and deletions, and places where he had rubbed out or pasted over sections. “The pencil is a marvellous invention,” he would say, “but the rubber is an even greater invention! I have erased things so many times in such a way that nothing is left, or very little. But what remains is good.”