Antonin Dvorák

Czech Suite, for orchestra in D major, B. 93 (Op. 39)

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Antonín Dvorák composed this music in 1879 (during April, it is believed); Adolf Cech conducted the premiere on May 16 of that year, in Prague.

    When Johannes Brahms recommended Dvorák's work to his own Berlin publisher, Simrock concurred, thereby initiating a selective association in 1879 that included only some of the pieces Brahms had mentioned. First, though, Simrock commissioned and published the initial set of Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, for piano four-hands and for orchestra, too. While these made Dvorák quickly famous, he became unhappy with several Simrock business practices: He protested the Germanizing of his first name as "Anton," in vain. He was embarrassed by high opus numbers given to early works, implying they were new. The biggest bone of contention, however, was Simrock's stinginess, coupled with a first right of refusal for all future works. This accounts for the Czech Suite's low opus number, although it was composed after the first set of Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, and the three Slavonic Rhapsodies, Op. 45. John Warrack has written that "[Dvorák] was evading an agreement for future works by pretending that this was an old one." Ironically, Simrock published it, but not until 1881. Even more ironically, it was destined to become a Cinderella among Dvorák's orchestral works.

    All of the movements are dance-based, even the opening Praeludium in D, additionally marked Pastorale; Allegro moderato, which evokes indigenous bagpipes (dudy in Czech; Dudelsack in German) that Svanda played incomparably in Jaromír Weinberger's subsequent opera of that name. While Warrack found a "suggestion of a polka under the oboe melody," a full-scale polka follows ebulliently in F major (Allegretto grazioso; 2/4). The central movement in the piece has a double designation: both Sousedská (a Bohemian version of the waltz, here in B flat major) and Minuetto, with a tempo marking of Allegro giusto, although Warrack remarked that "it is not really either so much as a Mazurka, the strong accent falling on the second beat in each bar." A slow movement follows in G major, a 9/8 Romanza to be played Andante con moto, with a colloquy for flute and English horn. A melody from this returns during the course of a superb concluding Furiant in F major, marked Presto (in 3/4 time, characterized by cross-rhythms). There's even a genuine folk song quoted, although Dvorák preferred to compose delectable counterfeits -- a movement in any event that begs to be encored.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Preludio (Pastorale)
    2. Polka. Allegretto grazioso
    3. Sousedska (Minuetto). Allegro giusto
    4. Romanza. Andante con moto
    5. Finale (Furiant). Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Erato 0190295975067
    2016 Supraphon SU 42032
    2015 Warner Classics 550580
    2015 Warner Classics 550580
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95297BR
    2013 Supraphon SU 41232
    2013 Naxos 8501702
    2013 Berlin Classics 0300539 BC
    2012 BIS BIS 1856
    2011 Brilliant Classics 93259
    2011 Warner Classics 2564666563
    2010 Exton 296
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 349943-2
    2008 Decca 4482452
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93674
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93166
    2006 Virgin Classics
    2006 Supraphon 38672
    2006 Koss 1002
    2005 Supraphon 38182
    2005 Brilliant 92297
    2005 Oehms Classics 555
    2005 Oehms 376
    2005 Linn Records 241
    2005 Amabile 14
    2005 Decca 000550402
    2004 MDG 6031259
    2004 Warner Classics 256461530
    2004 Naxos 8501701
    2004 Brilliant 92396
    2002 Klavier Records 11126
    2001 Erato / Virgin 7243561853
    2001 Supraphon 35632
    2001 Concerto Royale 206259
    2000 Decca
    2000 Angel Records 61739
    1999 Decca 4602932
    1998 Koch Discover International DICD920520
    1997 Arabesque Z6697
    1995 Naxos 553005
    1995 Decca 443015
    1994 Supraphon 110055
    1993 DG Deutsche Grammophon 437 506-2GH
    1992 ASV 765
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 101694
    London 414370
    Virgin 59522
    Brilliant 93166/8
    Brilliant 92396/38
    Brilliant Classics 93674/38
    Erato 45928