Most classical music lovers know and love Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, Opus 95, and his “American” String Quartet, Opus 96, but fewer know the work he wrote next: his String QUINTET, Opus 97. We think that’s a shame, since all three rank among the finest things the Czech composer ever wrote.
Dvorak’s Quintet is also nicknamed the “American” – and for good reason: It was completed in 1893 on today’s date in Spillville, Iowa, during the composer’s summer vacation in that small, rural community of Czech immigrants, where he and family could escape the noise and bustle of New York City and his duties there at the National Conservatory.
Dvorak had been brought to America to teach Americans how to write American music, but, like any good teacher, Dvorak was as eager to LEARN as to teach. In New York, Henry T. Burleigh, a talented African-American Conservatory student taught Dvorak spirituals, and in Spillville Dvorak eagerly attended performances of Native American music and dance by a group of touring Iroquois Indians.
Traces of those influences can be heard in Dvorak’s “American” works. In his Quintet, for example, unison melodic lines and striking rhythms seem to echo the Iroquois chants and drums Dvorak heard during his summer vacation in Spillville.
Music Played in Today's Program
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)2nd Mvt (Allegro vivo), fr String Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 97 Vlach Quartet Prague with Ladislav Kyselak, violaNaxos 8.553376