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 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 wrote a good deal of music for solo piano, very
little of which has ever really made a name for itself
in a repertoire whose every corner is filled with more
user-friendly, and often more pianistic, works. (Dvorák
could hold his own at the keyboard, but he was
certainly no virtuoso). Some of the dances and
humoresques are occasionally taken off the shelf for a
run-through, however, and a few of the sets of short
pieces are loved by more pianists than just the
Czech-specialists. Perhaps the best of these sets is
the Poetic Tone Pictures for piano, Op. 85, 13
colorfully titled pieces supplied with abundant
Dvorák apparently came up with the 13 picturesque
titles after he had finished composing the pieces in
June 1889. They are, in English: 1. Nighttime Path, 2.
Toying, 3. At the Old Castle, 4. Song of Spring, 5.
Peasant Ballad, 6. Lament, 7. Furiant-Dance, 8.
Goblin-Dance, 9. Serenade, 10. Bacchanal, 11.
Tittle-tattle, 12. At the Hero's Grave, 13. On the Holy
The pieces are in reality not all that short; still,
Dvorák hoped that pianists would perform them all
together. The many-faceted No. 1 is perhaps most like a
small tone-poem. Nos. 7 and 8 make for a nice minor
major dance pair; these two are the most immediately
appealing of the group, but Dvorák strikes deepest in
the serious-subjected Nos. 3, 12, and 13.
Although originally written for Piano, I arranged this
piece for Concert (Pedal) Harp.