ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK
(born 1841 in Nelahozeves, Bohemia; died 1904 in Prague, Czechoslovakia)

Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100 (1893)

1. Allegro risoluto
2. Larghetto
3. Scherzo (molto vivace)
4. Allegro

The legacy of Antonin Dvořák includes some very "popular" tunes with universal appeal. The charm of his music is in its simplicity combined with a typically sunny disposition. The sounds of Nature--of the earth and soil, rather than of sophisticated cosmopolitan life--fill his works. Dvořák was a villager at heart, who coveted the rustic country life; his Bohemian heritage proved to be the bread-and-butter of his music.

Dvořák was the eldest of nine children. His father kept an inn, as well as a butcher-shop, and groomed his first child to become a licensed butcher. The young man's training went as far as an apprenticeship before he was able to go to Prague and devote himself exclusively to studying music.

In 1892, Dvořák left Bohemia for New York City's urbane bustle to become the Director of the National Conservatory. He wrote a number of important works during his three-year sojourn in America including the Cello Concerto, Humoresque, New World Symphony, and the "American" Quartet.

The Sonatina, Op. 100, in G major, which was also composed in America, is dedicated to Dvořák's children. A celebratory work for a special opus, in four movements, it expresses the sweetness of American life as experienced by the Bohemian composer during his extended visit. The opening movement, marked Allegro risoluto resembles a fanfare, set in the sonata form of a-b-a. The secondary melody in the movement, in E minor rather than the closely related D major, is sometimes said to resemble "The Valley Below Nove Zamky," a Moravian Folk Song.

The second movement, Larghetto, was first sketched out on Dvořák's shirt sleeve in a moment of inspiration during the composer's visit to Minnehaha Falls, near St. Paul, Minnesota. His publisher, Simrock, sold the movement separately, without Dvořák's consent, for various instrumental arrangements. Fritz Kreisler played it in his recitals, popularizing it under the title 'The Indian Lament.'

The Scherzo movement that follows has an undeniably rustic character. Although marked molto vivace, it does not sound hectic. Rather, it gives poise and elegance to the otherwise unsophisticated movement.

The final movement, Allegro, is high-spirited for the most part as it expresses a characteristic longing for the composer's homeland.

When Simrock published the Sonatina, Dvořák indicated that it was "intended for young people (dedicated to my children) but grown-ups, too, let them get what enjoyment they can out of it." The work was conceived, sketched, and completed between September and early December 1893. It received a 'special' premiere at home in his New York apartment by two of his children.

In recent years, performers have often downplayed the credibility of the work, claiming it too simple a work for a mature composer. (Dvořák was 52 at the time he wrote it.) I find the challenge of the piece in its unsophisticated elegance, unadorned loveliness, and a particular innocence of a happy childhood. To quote Dvořák again, "a thought comes of itself, and if it is fine and great it is not our merit. But to carry out a thought well and make something great of it, that is the most difficult thing, that is, in fact, art!"

So, here is the Sonatina, Op. 100, a work of Bohemian roots with an American inspiration, turned into a work of art through the genius of our beloved Dvořák.

 
 
(May 2002)
 
  Notes © 2003 by Midori, OFFICE GOTO Co.Ltd.
Referential sources available on request.