Dvořák Four Romantic Pieces, Op.75

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Allegro maestoso
  3. Allegro appassionato
  4. Larghetto
In January 1887 Dvořák was living in Prague with his family and a young chemistry student named Josef Kruis. Kruis was an amateur violinist and Dvořák took it upon himself to write a trio for 2 violins and viola so the young man, his teacher Jan Perlikán and Dvořák could play together. The resultant work (Terzetto in C, Op.74) proved too demanding for the young man so Dvořák quickly set about writing a set of four miniatures. At the time he wrote to his publisher, “I am writing little miniatures – just imagine – for two violins and viola, and I enjoy the work as much as if I were writing a large symphony — what do you say to that?” Soon after completing the trio Dvořák rearranged the work into the setting you will hear this evening, giving the work the title Romantické busy (Romantic Pieces).
Despite being famous for his symphonic output, the pleasure Dvořák took crafting these pieces is obvious in every bar. The score is extremely carefully marked (by his own standards!) and the depth and subtly of expression is far removed from the more popular pieces written in America later on in his life. The first movement (entitled Cavatina in the original trio version) crafts a beautifully simple melody over a lilting piano accompaniment in the key of Bb major. The simple harmonic structure of the opening sets up some stunningly expressive shifts in tonality in later on. A much more stormy Allegro Maestoso follows in the darker key of D minor (originally entitled Capriccio) where Dvořák uses a fast tempo, sudden dynamic changes and a consistently detached articulation to unsettle the mood. The third movement (which started life as a Romance) returns to the melodic and tonal world of the opening movement although this time the piano accompanies the soaring violin line with rippling triplet figuration. Again a simple harmonic progression at the beginning of the movement perfectly sets up a gorgeous and sudden shift to the minor mode half way through. The set finishes with a devastating Elegy in the relative key of G minor where the piano relentlessly progresses with constant semiquaver movement despite the reluctance and desperation written into the falling appoggiaturas and anguished chords in the violin part.
© 2013 Nicholas Burns

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