Music@Menlo: Their Prince Will Come

Janos Gereben on June 17, 2014
Where Lobkowiczes and Dvoráks met
Where Lobkowiczes and Dvořáks met

Antonín Dvořák's father served as the butcher for the family of Prince Lobkowicz in Nelahozeves Castle, just north of Prague, says Music@Menlo Festival co-director Wu Han. How did that come up when talking about the festival? Here are the strands of the thread:


  • The July 18-Aug. 9 festival's theme is "Around Dvořák."
  • The Dvořák family house, where the composer grew up, is right next to the castle. The house, still owned by the Lobkowicz family (spelled Lobkowitz in German), and operated by the National Museum, is known as the Antonín Dvořák Memorial and contains an exhibit that focuses mainly on the composer's childhood and youth.
  • The most prominent patriarch of the Lobkowicz family was Franz Joseph Maximilian Fürst von Lobkowitz (1772-1816), whose Bohemian lineage dates back to the 14th century and who for generations served among the Western world’s most significant arts patrons. Great composers, including Haydn and Beethoven, dedicated works to him in gratitude for his support. Beethoven's Eroica (after Napoleon disappointed the composer), the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Opus 18 Quartets, and the Triple Concerto are all inscribed to the prince.
  • Music@Menlo's third program, of works by Haydn and Beethoven, is called "The Lobkowicz Legacy," and in conjunction with the program, Encounter II will be led by a Prince Lobkowicz, the present-day heir and trustee of the Lobkowicz family’s trove of musical manuscripts.

    William Lobkowicz and Music@Menlo's David Finckel
    William Lobkowicz and Music@Menlo's David Finckel

    Prince William Lobkowicz-Maximilian is the seventh generation descendent of Beethoven's pal. He was born in Boston in 1961, and does not use the title, although he is recognized as such in the post-Communist Czech Republic. In 1990, Lobkowicz moved to what was then Czechoslovakia to claim his family's vast ancestral belongings, the restoration, preservation and display of which have become his profession and passion.

    He reclaimed and restored several of the family's Nazi- and Communist-confiscated castles, including one wing of the vast Prague Castle on Hradčany Hill, where many of the original Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven manuscripts are stored.

    It was here that Music@Menlo Co-Directors Wu Han and David Finckel first met Lobkowicz several years ago. They later collaborated on music projects at the Chamber Music Society, Stony Brook University, the Juilliard School, and will do so next at Music@Menlo — about which much more in future columns.