Vysoká u Příbrami, a small community located in the middle of scenic wooded countryside within a stone´s throw from the Brdy hills, was for over two decades a home away from home to one of the foremost protagonists of Czech music, the composer Antonín Dvořák (1841 – 1904).
In 1878, Dvořák´s brother-in-law, Count Dr Václav Kounic, the proprietor of the estate of Vysoká, had a mansion built at the edge of the wood, set in the middle of a large park adorned by small lakes, today serving as the Antonín Dvořák Memorial. The composer would regularly come here to visit the Kounic family, staying at the steward´s lodge adjacent to the deer-park. In 1884, following his triumphant reception in England, the composer purchased from his brother-in-law a plot of land with an old granary which was then promptly converted to a comfortable country home (the Villa Rusalka). There, Dvořák spent a good deal of time indulging in his favourite pastimes of gardening and pigeon breeding, as well as, naturally enough, composing.
The local colour of Vysoká and its environs thus became inseparably linked with the mature period of Dvořák´s career, a stage during which he reached the peak of his compositional mastery. From the Quartet Movement in F major of October 1881, through the opera, Armida, of July 1903, he composed, began or finished over thirty new works here, apart from revising and/or reworking many earlier compositions. His major works whose genesis is associated with this place thus include the operas, Dimitrij; The Jacobin; Kate and the Devil; Rusalka; and Armida; plus the oratorio, Saint Ludmila; the cantata, The Spectre´s Bride; Requiem; Symphonies Nos. 7 in D minor and 8 in G major; the second set of Slavonic Dances; the overtures, My Home; Amid Nature; and Carnival; Humoresque; and the symphonic poems, The Water Sprite; The Noonday Witch; The Golden Spinning Wheel; Heroic Song, and others.
Indeed, Vysoká was a place which immensely boosted Dvořák´s creative potential. The composer himself wrote in his letters to friends: “I feel so happy here…”