Antonin Dvorák

Biblical Songs (Biblické písne) (10) for voice & piano or orchestra, B. 185 (Op. 99)

    Description by Alexander Carpenter

    The Biblical Songs were all composed in March 1894, while Dvorák was in the United States. It is thought that the composer's turn to religious subjects was a reflection of his homesickness -- he had been in America for a year already -- and also an expression of sorrow over the recent deaths of a number of fellow composers, including his friend Tchaikovsky. Dvorák composed relatively little religious music, and was not entirely comfortable writing it, but the texts of the Biblical Songs were perfectly suited to his expressive needs, and he completed them quickly and with relative ease.

    Dvorák chose the texts himself from the Book of Psalms, selecting verses from 13 different psalms. Musically, the songs reflect a number of different influences, including the Negro spirituals to which Dvorák had been exposed while in America. The songs contain a blend of pentatonic and conventional diatonic progressions, with some complex modulations that serve to dramatize the text; almost all of the 10 songs are slow and contemplative in nature. The composer orchestrated the first five songs of the set in 1895, and the remaining songs were orchestrated by V. Zemánek for their publication in 1929. Interestingly, these songs have been both lauded as Dvorák's best, and criticized as his worst: those who praise them songs claim that they are works of great religious sincerity, while others see them as overly conventional, too simplistic, and lacking in variety when performed as a set.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Clouds and darkness
    2. Lord, Thou art my refuge
    3. Hear my prayer o God
    4. The Lord is my shepherd
    5. I will sing a new song
    6. Hear my prayer, O God
    7. By the waters of Babylon
    8. Turn Thee unto me
    9. I will lift up mine eyes
    10. O sing unto the Lord

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Capriccio Records C 5207
    2015 Supraphon SU 41872
    2013 Rondeau ROP 6044
    2011 Supraphon SU40462
    2009 Oehms Classics 806
    2008 Romeo Entertainment 7262
    2005 Claves 2411
    2005 Berlin Classics 0091682
    2003 Berlin Classics 0032492
    2001 Supraphon 3437
    1999 Supraphon 3247
    1996 Christophorus 0079
    1995 Supraphon 02062
    1994 Berlin Classics 0010802
    1994 DG Deutsche Grammophon 437377
    1994 Delos 3161
    1994 Delos DE3161
    1992 Chandos 9002
    Ars Produktion 368305
    Unicorn-Kanchana 9115
    Capriccio Records 10053
    Supraphon 206
    Carriere Classics 1