Antonin Dvorák

Serenade for winds & strings in D minor, B. 77 (Op. 44)

    Description by Patsy Morita

    In 1874, Antonin Dvorák applied for and won the Austrian State Stipend for young composers, and in the process, his work came to the attention of influential critic Eduard Hanslick. Dvorák applied again -- and won again -- in each of the next four years, earning the respect and aid of Johannes Brahms in getting his works published along the way. The stipends allowed Dvorák to quit his organist post and concentrate on composition and performing his works, which suddenly increased in number as his popularity among the general public in his homeland and throughout Austria rapidly grew. In this period, Dvorák wrote two serenades, one for strings (B. 52) and one for winds (B. 77), a hearkening back to the entertaining and charming music of Mozart and the Classical era.

    The four-movement Serenade for winds in D minor, B. 77, was written in just two weeks in January 1878. Dvorák scored it for two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, three horns, cello, and double bass, with an ad lib contrabassoon part as well. Despite the lack of the higher register that would have come from the inclusion of flutes in the mix, the work as a whole has a lightness to it that stems from Dvorák's graceful melodic lines and ensemble writing, fitting for a piece recalling the refinement of the Classical era. Its form may be descended from Classical ones, but the music is entirely filled with Slavonic folk music rhythms and harmonies. It opens with a Moderato quasi-Marcia that can be oh-so-serious or mocking if its humor isn't balanced just so. It's the only movement in a minor key; all of the remaining movements are in major keys, adding to the good-natured qualities of the serenade overall. The second movement may be titled Minuetto and feel something like a Classical minuet, but it's really a Bohemian sousedská with a furiant trio using a hemiola pattern. Thirdly is an Andante con moto, a mostly pastoral scene, but with moments of passion created in arcing lines for the oboe and clarinet. The finale is something of a rondo, as playfully structured as it is teasing in rhythm and textures. It recalls the theme from the first movement in one of its episodes, set against the more dance-like main theme of the movement.

    Dvorák conducted the premiere of the work at a Prague concert on November 15, 1878, in a program devoted to his compositions, something that was only just starting to happen for the composer. The serenade was immediately well-received and published the following April. Brahms praised it, writing to the violinist Joseph Joachim: "a more lovely, refreshing impression of real, rich, and charming creative talent you can't easily have....I think it must be pleasure for the wind players." And it remains a well-loved favorite of wind players and enthusiasts.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Moderato quasi marcia
    2. Menuetto. Tempo di minuetto
    3. Andante con moto
    4. Finale. Allegro molto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 250371
    2016 Mark Records 51930 MCD
    2015 I Solisti Records ISV 14001
    2014 Decca
    2014 MDG MDG 30818112
    2013 Supraphon SU 41232
    2013 Naxos 8501702
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2011 Musical Concepts MC 114
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Avi-Music 8553164
    2008 Supraphon 39322
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93674
    2008 Avi-Music 553014
    2008 Decca 4780114
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Universal
    2005 Praga 250217
    2005 Brilliant 92181
    2005 Rca Red Seal 70830
    2005 EtCetera Records 4001
    2004 Warner Classics 2564615282
    2004 Chandos 6678
    2004 Supraphon SU3776-2
    2004 Naxos 8501701
    2004 Brilliant 92396
    2004 Mark Custom Recording 5440
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000019602
    2003 Orfeo 595031
    2003 Philips 472678
    2003 Deutsche Schallplatten 1004
    2002 Klavier Records 11126
    2002 Caprice Records 21384
    2002 CBC Records 5073
    2001 D Classics 70684
    2000 Naxos 554173
    2000 Warner Classics
    2000 Testament 1180
    1999 CRD Records 3410
    1999 D Classics 70399
    1999 Campion Records 1306
    1999 Praga 250129
    1999 Disky 705902
    1998 Capriccio Records 10559
    1997 Chandos 7060
    1997 Harmonia Mundi HMA190 1399
    1996 Camerata Records 30CM406
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62412
    1995 Delos 3152
    1995 MDG / MDG Gold MDG 30104162
    1993 COE Records 801
    1992 Music & Arts CD-691
    1992 Orfeo 51831
    1991 ASV 801
    1983 Philips 400020
    Deutsche Grammophon 415364
    Memoria 991008
    Panton Records 811311
    Teldec 46315
    Teldec 18950
    ASV 6002
    Koch Discover International 94331
    MHS 512509
    Brilliant Classics 93674/21
    Brilliant 92396/21
    Brilliant 92181/8
    Koch Discover International 920135
    EMI Music Distribution 67481
    D Classics 704022
    Teldec 97446
    Victoria 19095
    Stereophile 009