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Kovarik, Josef Jan (1870 - 1951)

Violinist and violist of Czech descent born to Czech emigres in the United States. He studied the violin at the Prague Conservatoire in the years 1888–1891; he made the acquaintance of Antonin Dvorak in Prague and in 1892 he accompanied the composer and his family on their journey to America. During Dvorak’s time in the United States he acted as his unofficial assistant and aide. At Kovarik’s invitation, the Dvoraks spent the summer holiday of 1893 in the violinist’s hometown of Spillville in the state of Iowa. At Dvorak’s recommendation Kovarik was appointed professor of violin at the New York Conservatory of Music; in the years 1895–1936 he was violinist and later viola player in the New York Philharmonic. As a member of the Dannreuther Quartet, he was involved in the American premiere of Dvorak’s String Quartet in A flat major. He regarded the two and a half years spent with Dvorak as the happiest years of his life and he recorded many valuable memories of this period in his copious correspondence with Dvorak’s biographer Otakar Sourek and in several published articles. He tirelessly promoted Dvorak’s compositions and Czech music in general throughout his life in America.