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It’s hard to imagine the music of Gershwin, Bernstein, or any other American composer without Antonín Dvořák. Despite being, technically, a foreigner, Dvořák molded America’s musical identity from the moment he moved from Prague to New York to direct the National Conservatory. His best-known symphony, “From the New World,” reflects the Czech composer’s interest in Native and African American musical traditions, incorporating elements of spirituals and Sioux dances he picked up from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows. He also instilled credibility in those traditions among Old World audiences, who were skeptical that the United States offered much cultural wealth. Dvořák, then, makes a fine ambassador for the Czech Embassy’s two month-long Mutual Inspirations Festival, which kicked off in New York on the composer’s birthday (Sept. 8). Local performances begin tonight with a vocal concert by Tre Mezzi at the embassy, and Catholic University’s orchestra plays the famous symphony at the National Museum of the American Indian on Sept. 17. Film screenings, exhibits, and lectures flesh out the program, which concludes on Oct. 28—Czech National Day.

Tre Mezzi performs at 5 p.m. at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom Ln. NW. Free. RSVP required to amb_washington@embassy.mzv.cz.