Josefina Čermáková (Kounicová) (1849–1895)

Actress at the Provisional Theatre, daughter of goldsmith Jan Jiří Čermák and Klotilda Čermáková, later Dvořák’s sister-in-law. She gave her debut on the Provisional stage at a mere fifteen years of age and she excelled particularly performing roles of young naive lovers in the French comic repertoire. She later worked in the theatre in Weimar. In 1877 she married the eminent politician, Count Václav Kounic, and gave up her stage career. She came to know Dvořák when they were working together in the theatre, and also when Dvořák earned extra income teaching the piano at the Čermák family home. Dvořák fell in love with Josefina, but she did not return his affections and Dvořák was then inspired to write the song cycle Cypresses. As if unconsciously following in the footsteps of Mozart and Haydn, Dvořák finally married Josefina’s sister Anna. However, the composer remained in contact with Josefina and Václav Kounic his whole life. They invited him to their home in Vysoká u Příbramě, a village which enchanted him so much that it became his second home from then on. Josefina Kounicová is also associated with the composition of one of Dvořák’s most famous works, the Cello Concerto in B minor; Josefina was dying at the time he was writing the work. In an act of remembrance Dvořák inserted into the concerto a quotation of Josefina’s favourite song, Leave Me Alone (Kéž duch můj sám) from the cycle Four Songs, Op. 82.