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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Prague by William Wyld (1806-1889)
Reproduced by permission of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Crown Copyright / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55365
Recording details: April 1997
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: February 1998
Total duration: 18 minutes 39 seconds

'This delectable Hyperion release enshrines music-making of sensitivity and eloquence' (Gramophone)

'Yet another unimpeachable release from the Hyperion stable' (Classic CD)

Sonatina in G major, Op 100 B183
composer
19 November to 3 December 1893

Allegro risoluto  [6'09]
Larghetto  [3'50]
Finale: Allegro  [5'46]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If Dvorák’s duties as the Director of the National Conservatory of Music—a post he held from 1892 to 1895—meant that his time in the United States was somewhat fraught, the music of this period rarely shows signs of inordinate storm and stress; a fair amount, in fact, including the ‘American’ String Quartet and Quintet (Opp 96 and 97), was written when Dvorák was away from the bustle of New York on holiday with his family in Iowa. Many aspects of his musical style underwent change in this period. The melodic and rhythmic characteristics of his ‘American’ manner are familiar enough: breezy pentatonic themes and driving ostinati; both these features were present in his earlier music, but during his stay in the New World they acquired greater prominence. His approach to form was also developing: in response to the greater simplicity of the melodic material he was using, and perhaps also as a model for the students in New York he was encouraging to found a new American style of classical music, the general shaping of movements becomes simpler. The advantage for Dvorák was that he could luxuriate in his melodic inspiration while leaving the form more or less to look after itself.

The Sonatina for violin and piano is one of the most delightful of these relaxed compositions. It was composed between 19 November and 3 December 1893, although inspiration for the slow movement had struck the composer a few months earlier when he had been to the Minnehaha Falls. The work was intended as a gift for two of Dvorák’s children, Otilka (Otilie) and Antonín, and the relative simplicity of the writing has made the work a favourite for performance by young musicians. But if the execution is undemanding, the freshness and delicacy of the piece is not so easily captured.

The first movement begins with a bold call to attention after which the violin provides a more relaxed response. The exposition that follows is characterized primarily by a strong lyrical flow; the development, economically founded on the opening idea, provides opportunity for some vigorous interplay between the instruments. Rather like the slow movement of the ‘American’ Quartet, the Larghetto of the Sonatina is consciously soulful, although the radiant, slightly brisker central section (Poco più mosso) supplies contrast. A brief, delightfully open-hearted Scherzo leads to the Finale, the broadest of the four movements. Here Dvorák’s melodic inspiration results in a sequence of memorable thematic ideas, notably in the exquisite slower section marked Molto tranquillo. As in the first movement, the fibre for development is supplied by the opening motif which also dominates the uncomplicated and optimistic close of the work.

from notes by Jan Smaczny © 1998

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