The Dumka is thought to date from 1880, and was apparently first performed in 1885 in a benefit concert for the Brno Organ School, though it was not published until 1929, shortly after the composer’s death. The Czech term ‘dumka’ originally meant a lament, from the Ukrainian ‘duma’, a kind of narrative ballad. In Slavonic music, the dumka has an A–B–A form, usually alternating fast and slow sections. (Dvorák’s famous ‘Dumky’ Piano Trio was not written until 1891.) The passionately melancholic opening strain of Janácek’s piece is effectively contrasted with a more pathetic middle section.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010