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Hyperion Records

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A View of Prague by P Jankowski
Fine Art Photographic Library
Track(s) taken from CDA66895
Recording details: May 1996
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: November 1996
Total duration: 28 minutes 48 seconds

'An enchanting disc' (Gramophone)

'Musicianly and refined performances that will give much pleasure' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'This is a wonderful disc. Another jewel in the heavily-studded Hyperion crown. A richly rewarding treat' (Classic CD)

'Sunny music-making' (Hi-Fi News)

Piano Trio in E minor 'Dumky', Op 90 B166
first performed on 11 April 1891

Allegro  [3'41]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The ‘Dumkas for piano trio’ were part of this emancipation. Dvorák composed them between November 1890 and 12 February 1891. There was little doubt in the composer’s mind that he was breaking new ground with this work. In writing to his friend Alois Göbl in 1890 he mentioned that his new pieces for violin, cello and piano ‘would be both happy and sad’, a reference to the way in which each movement is built on an alternation of slow and fast sections, the essence of the ‘dumka’ as Dvorák practised it. In doing so he challenged the very essence of the large-scale, conventional trio sustained by sonata structures. The Trio was also different in tone; Dvorák seems to have been set upon creating a work with a popular accent and thus suitable for all kinds of audiences. His efforts paid off; since its first performance in Prague on 11 April 1891, Dvorák’s Trio made of dumkas has been among the most successful of his chamber works.

Despite the novelty of the overall conception, Dvorák still seems to have had at least a vague notion of a four-movement framework for his six dumkas since the first three run together with barely a break. The first dumka epitomizes the nature of a style in which passionate and meditative melody, often song-like in quality, alternate. While Dvorák is prepared to develop his themes in the faster sections, the melody of the slower portions is usually sustained by imaginative instrumentation and ear-catching ornamentation. In the first two dumkas, he wears his heart on his sleeve; the fast passages are intoxicating while the slow have a burning intensity. The third dumka is quite different, simultaneously the simplest and most original of the set. Radiant opening chords introduce a near-vocal main theme whose repetitions are enhanced by subtle transformations before giving way to a wistful central section in the manner of a polka. In the fourth dumka a brisk march is interspersed with a bright ‘Allegretto scherzando’ complemented by ornamentation from the first violin reminiscent of bird song. The penultimate movement is perhaps the most extrovert with a bracing main theme extended and enlivened by almost Beethovenian development. The final number challenges convention still further; the key is now C minor, a third lower than the E minor of the start of the Trio. The musical language in this remarkable concluding movement is full of suppressed tension. Although most of the material is derived from the opening bars, Dvorák sustains the impetus through to a broad peroration which is both grand and tender, reflective and powerful.

from notes by Jan Smaczny © 1996

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