History of the school

Antonin Dvorak

The Prague Conservatory ranks among the oldest music schools of this type in Europe. It was founded in 1808 to provide education to orchestral musicians. A proclamation by music-loving Prague aristocrats on the 25th of April, 1808 was the primary stimulus for the school's founding and is now considered the founding charter of the Prague Conservatory. Soon after the charter was published the first financial contributions started gathering and the number of supporters was growing. However, their efforts were crossed by the Napoleonic wars. In March 1810, the aristocracy syndicate founded an organization called "Society for improving music in the Czech lands", which funded and managed the Conservatory for more than 100 of the following years. The first school year began on 24th of April 1811. The flats of the teachers served as classrooms and the syllabus used was prepared by the first headmaster Bedřich Dionýs Weber. It was not until the autumn of 1811 that the school obtained a premises and settled down in the Dominican monastery of Saint Giles. In 1817, singing lessons were added to orchestral instruments education. During the following period the school played a significant role in the development of Prague musical life. Concerts of the orchestra and help of the pupils in the professional orchestras were irreplaceable for Prague above all. Honourable mention of the concerts came for example from C.M. Weber, R.Wagner, H.Berlioz and F.Liszt. In 1866, Bedřich Smetana applied for the vacancy in headmaster’s office but the selection committee elected Josef Krejčí, the director of the "Organ school." When the school acquired new premises in the building of Rudolfinum, the construction of which was just completed, and Antonín Bennewitz, a famous violin teacher, became the head of the school, the "golden age" of the Prague Conservatory began. After the conservatory merged with the Organ school in 1890, other music subjects were taught: piano, organ, composition and conducting. In 1891, Antonín Dvořák started teaching at the conservatory, first as a composition teacher and later on, from 1901 to 1904 as the headmaster. He educated a whole ensemble of prominent composers, including Josef Suk, Vítězslav Novák, but also operetta composers Oskar Nedbal and Franz Lehár. Come to that, there were a lot of famous persons educated at the Prague Conservatory: Otakar Ševčík, Jan Kubelík, Jaroslav Kocian, Václav Talich, Karel Ančerl, Rafael Kubelík, Bohuslav Martinů, Alois Hába and many others. After 1918, the conservatory was nationalized but also lost its premises in Rudolfinum. For a certain period of time the conservatory resided in a monastery, this time a Benedictine one, later on in the former chemical institution in Trojanova street and finally in the building Na Rejdišti in Old Town where it has stayed until this day. In 1919, the conservatory was expanded, this time a drama school was started. Otýlie Sklenářová-Malá, a legendary actress, played an important role in the foundation of the drama school. During the interwar period, the school was managed by Josef Suk, Vítězslav Novák, J.B. Foerster, Vilém Kurz, Jaroslav Kocian and other remarkable figures. After World War II, a dancing department was added (became independent Dancing Conservatory in 1980) and the so-called "master school of the Prague Conservatory" (follow-up course after completion of standard study) became the Academy of Music. From 1942 to 1970, the school was led by dr.Václav Holzknecht, a lawyer, pianist and popularizer of music, who lead the school through the difficult times of Nazi occupation and most of the communist totalitarian period. In 1986, the popular music department was established consisting of two major subjects – singing and composition. After the social situation changed in November 1989, the teachers and students worked hard to meet the constantly increasing demands laid upon music and theatre professionals. The major commitment of everyone here at the conservatory is to sustain the high reputation of the school and to further expand the famous, two-century-old tradition of the school, which during its existence educated a myriad of musicians, composers, singers, dancers, and actors and played a significant role in the development of music education in the Czech nation.

Founding Charter

Founding Charter Proclamation of the "Society for the Improvement of Music in the Czech Lands", 25th of April, 1808
"Considering that the art of music once flourishing in the Czech Lands has now so much declined that even in Prague a good and complete orchestra can be formed only with difficulty, and that for many instruments there are not sufficient musicians, and sometimes none at all, the signatories of this declaration have joined together to this end, and with this purpose, that they should ennoble and raise up the art of music in the Czech Lands once again. In their judgment, the first and most appropriate means to this end is to find and appoint, for every instrument, an excellent musician who by special contract will undertake not to play his instrument in the orchestra for several years, but also to teach that instrument and train several pupils assigned to him. For those instruments for whom no outstanding performer may be found in Prague, musicians should be invited from abroad, and the same contract and conditions should be negotiated with them. In order that the expenses necessary to t his end be covered, the signatories have undertaken to provide certain annual contributions for 6 successive years, and they appeal to all lovers and friends of the art of music to join with them as founders in this proposed endeavor and, by subscribing contributions of at least 100 silver coins, to help towards the elevation of the art of music in the Czech Lands."

Franz Josef Count of Wrtba
Franz Count of Sternberg
Johann Count of Nostitz
Christian Count of Clam-Gallas
Friedrich Count of Nostitz
Karl Count and Lord of Firmian
Johann Count of Pachta
Franz Count of Klebelsbeg