Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Nationality: Czech
Born: September 8, 1841, Nelahozeves, Bohema Died: May 1, 1904, Prague (age 62)

String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 51, B. 92, "Slavonic"

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
10:44 I. Allegro ma non troppo
7:41 II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
6:40 III. Romanza. Andante con moto
7:05 IV. Finale. Allegro assai
Duration: 32 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1878-1879 (age 36-38)
Premiere: November 10, 1879. Magdeburg
Published: 1879, Berlin: N. Simrock (age 37-38)
Dedication: Jean Becker [leader of the Florentine Quartet who commissioned the work]
7 recordings, 25 videos
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10:57
Prague String Quartet
I. Allegro ma non troppo
7:20
Prague String Quartet
II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
6:41
Prague String Quartet
III. Romanza. Andante con moto
6:32
Prague String Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro assai
11:17
Vienna String Quartet
I. Allegro ma non troppo
8:08
Vienna String Quartet
II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
7:04
Vienna String Quartet
III. Romanza. Andante con moto
6:52
Vienna String Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro assai
11:29
Bennewitz Quartet
I. Allegro ma non troppo
7:59
Bennewitz Quartet
II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
6:29
Bennewitz Quartet
III. Romanza. Andante con moto
7:19
Bennewitz Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro assai
10:00
Panocha Quartet
I. Allegro ma non troppo
7:04
Panocha Quartet
II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
5:40
Panocha Quartet
III. Romanza. Andante con moto
6:41
Panocha Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro assai
11:16
New Zealand String Quartet
I. Allegro ma non troppo
7:51
New Zealand String Quartet
II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
7:05
New Zealand String Quartet
III. Romanza. Andante con moto
7:01
New Zealand String Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro assai
31:53
Janáček String Quartet
8:29
American String Quartet
I. Allegro ma non troppo
8:02
American String Quartet
II. Dumka (Elegia). Andante con moto - Vivace
6:12
American String Quartet
III. Romanza. Andante con moto
7:02
American String Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro assai
From Kai Christiansen

Antonín Dvořák, (1841-1904)

String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 51, "Slavonic", 1879

Dvořák first attracted significant attention as a composer with two sides of the same coin: folk music and dance. Aided by Brahms who recognized his talents and recommend Dvořák to his own Viennese publisher Simrock, Dvořák first published a set of Moravian Dances followed by collection of Slavonic (i.e. Bohemian) Dances thereby covering the two chief regions of what would eventually become Czechoslovakia. The Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, published in 1878 when Dvořák was in his late thirties, were wildly successful and immediately established his international reputation as an emerging Nationalistic composer. In the thrall of this excitement, the Florentine Quartet approached Dvořák asking for a new string quartet "in the Slavic style." Dvořák, a professional violist who had already written numerous chamber works responded by composing his tenth string quartet, Op. 51 published in 1879 and subsequently known by its nickname "Slavonic." Essentially marking the beginning of his mature, celebrated chamber works, it has been often described as the perfect fusion of classical style and Bohemian folk spirit and, a wonderfully revealing contrast to his more famous quartet, the "American", where ostensibly a different, new world folk spirit prevails.

The quartet opens with a warm, lyrical sonata typically played at a moderate tempo. The flowing quality of the music is punctuated by a rhythmic lilt suggesting the quick two-step beats of the Polka, originally a Bohemian dance. The dance qualities become more pronounced with the transitional material and the second theme. The development section features Dvořák's characteristic "flickering" between the major and minor modes, a trait recalling Schubert as well as the exotic flavor of Eastern European folk music (and a trait vividly continued in the second movement). The development also shifts briefly into something more reverent in the manner of a church hymn that Dvořák achieves by slowing the main theme to half its speed.

The quartet famously projects a pronounced Slavic folk character with the second, movement Dumka subtitled Elegie. Dvořák would compose many more Dumky throughout his oeuvre, the term "Dumka" designating a heroic folk ballad beginning as a slow lament with contrasting sections of celebratory exuberance in a faster tempo. A mournful tale begins in G minor with a soulful duet between violin and viola to the guitar-like strumming of pizzicato in the cello (featuring a plangent shift between major and minor within a phrase). As soon as the sorrow is fully developed, the music abruptly shifts to G major, from a slow duple meter andante to a swift triple meter vivace and a lively Czech peasant dance known as the furiant. Dvořák will take the movement through these contrasts twice with thrilling tempo modulations for truly folk, improvisational feel as well as a constantly fresh treatment of the musical materials. Originally seeming like the slow movement, the second movement leaves one with the impression of a rhythmic scherzo.

The third movement is the proper slow movement, a beautiful Romanze that any lover of Dvořák's music will quickly recognize for its atmospheric, lyrical poignancy. While not representing a specific Slavic trait, the music exhibits a heartfelt directness, warmth and finely wrought "simplicity" for which Bohemian musicians and composers have long been famous. The languid interlude is a perfect foil for the rollicking finale, a swift rondo based on what musicologists have identified as the skačna, a Bohemian fiddle tune akin to an Irish reel with a jolly perpetual motion. An unmistakably vivacious dance energy animates the momentum. Dvořák exploits the rondo form for a great deal of contrast in rhythm, tempo, key and overall mood including a wonderful bluster of classical counterpoint and constantly shifting textures amidst otherwise directly accessible music with an infectiously rustic folk character, a superb blend of high art and music from and for "the people."

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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