Antonín Dvorák


Born: 1841   Died: 1904   Country: Czechoslovakia   Period: Romantic
Widely regarded as the most distinguished of Czech composers, Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904) produced attractive and vigorous music possessed of clear formal outlines, melodies that are both memorable and spontaneous-sounding, and a colorful, effective instrumental sense. Dvorák is considered one of the major figures of nationalism, both proselytizing for and making actual use of folk influences, which he expertly combined with Classical forms in Read more works of all genres. His symphonies are among his most widely appreciated works; the Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World," 1893) takes a place among the finest and most popular examples of the symphonic literature. Similarly, his Cello Concerto (1894-1895) is one of the cornerstones of the repertory, providing the soloist an opportunity for virtuosic flair and soaring expressivity. Dvorák displayed special skill in writing for chamber ensembles, producing dozens of such works; among these, his 14 string quartets (1862-1895), the "American" Quintet (1893) and the "Dumky" Trio (1890-1891) are outstanding examples of their respective genres, overflowing with attractive folklike melodies set like jewels into the solid fixtures of Brahmsian absolute forms.
Dvorák's "American" and "New World" works arose during the composer's sojourn in the United States in the early 1890s; he was uneasy with American high society and retreated to a small, predominantly Czech town in Iowa for summer vacations during his stay. However, he did make the acquaintance of the pioneering African-American baritone H.T. Burleigh, who may have influenced the seemingly spiritual-like melodies in the "New World" symphony and other works; some claim that the similarity resulted instead from a natural affinity between African-American and Eastern European melodic structures.
By that time, Dvorák was among the most celebrated of European composers, seen by many as the heir to Brahms, who had championed Dvorák during the younger composer's long climb to the top. The son of a butcher and occasional zither player, Dvorák studied the organ in Prague as a young man and worked variously as a café violist and church organist during the 1860s and 1870s while creating a growing body of symphonies, chamber music, and Czech-language opera. For three years in the 1870s he won a government grant (the Viennese critic Hanslick was among the judges) designed to help the careers of struggling young creative artists. Brahms gained for Dvorák a contract with his own publisher, Simrock, in 1877; the association proved a profitable one despite an initial controversy that flared when Dvorák insisted on including Czech-language work titles on the printed covers, a novelty in those musically German-dominated times. In the 1880s and 1890s Dvorák's reputation became international in scope thanks to a series of major masterpieces that included the Seventh, Eighth, and "New World" symphonies. At the end of his life he turned to opera once again; Rusalka, from 1901, incorporates Wagnerian influences into the musical telling of its legend-based story, and remains the most frequently performed of the composer's vocal works. Dvorák, a professor at Prague University from 1891 on, exerted a deep influence on Czech music of the twentieth century; among his students was Josef Suk, who also became his son-in-law. Read less
Dvorák: Symphony No 9, Symphonic Variations / Alsop, Baltimore SO
Release Date: 05/27/2008   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8570714   Number of Discs: 1
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Dvorák: Serenade For Winds;  Janacek, Enescu / Oslo Soloists
Release Date: 04/11/2000   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8554173   Number of Discs: 1
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Dvorák: Symphonies No 4 And 8 / Gunzenhauser, Slovak Po
Release Date: 12/11/1992   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550269   Number of Discs: 1
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Dvorák: Slavonic Dances Opp 46 & 72 / Kosler, Slovak Po
Release Date: 06/30/1992   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550143   Number of Discs: 1
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Dvorák: Symphony No 1, Legends / Stephen Gunzenhauser
Release Date: 01/28/1993   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550266   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Humoresque in G flat major, Op. 101 no 7


About This Work
The eight humoresques of Antonin Dvorak's Op. 101 are largely forgotten today -- all but one of them, that is. The Humoresque in G flat major, No. 7, Op. 101, is surely one of the world's most famous short pieces, and has been since it was first Read more published. Arrangements of this slight work have been made for every imaginable instrument and ensemble, most of them by the original publisher (N. Simrock) with Dvorak's knowledge; the arrangement made for violin and piano by Fritz Kreisler was so famous in its day that many forgot altogether that the work was originally for piano.

The Humoresques are among Dvorak's last works for keyboard. Composed in 1894, they are followed only by the Two Pieces, B. 188 ("Berceuse" and "Capriccio"), written later the same year. As such, they represent the composer's mature synthesis of the character piece genre with his innate, spontaneous sense of melody and the ever-present influence of his native Czech folk music. All eight of the Humoresques are, at times, reminiscent of Johannes Brahms in their combination of relatively conservative musical language, robust textures, and warm tunefulness.

It took Dvorak a few years to put the pieces of Op. 101 into their finished shapes. He jotted down most of the melodies and themes during his stay in the United States (1892-1895), but he didn't set about fleshing them out until the summer of 1894 (during a brief and welcome return to Bohemia for the summer). At first he thought of calling the set New Scottish Dances (a follow-up to the Scottish Dances, Op. 41, of the late 1870s), since they all follow the basic duple-meter and simple rondo-type plan of an Ecossaise dance. But he decided instead to give them the less specific title, Humoresques.

-- All Music Guide Read less

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