How do such mundane things as trains and potatoes link to Dvorak’s stirring 7th Symphony?
Dvorak was a trainspotter and spent hours at the railway station in Prague, talking to train drivers and noting down engine numbers.
The theme from his 7th Symphony came to him when he was at the station watching a train bringing anti-Habsburg sympathisers from Budapest to Prague for a festival at the National Theatre. Dvořák strongly identified himself with the rising tide of Bohemian nationalism and had been tracking the group’s progress with enthusiasm.
At the very bottom of the page of the score of the first movement, Dvořák’s handwritten note reads: “I got this theme when the festival train from Pest was arriving in the State Station in 1884.”
When Dvořák’s publisher Simrock failed to send him an advance for the Symphony, the composer complained that he had endured a bad potato harvest and needed some money upfront.