The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1
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Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Dumka 'Elegie': Poco allegretto
Movement 3: Furiant: Presto
Movement 4: Finale 'Tema con variazioni': Allegretto grazioso, quasi andantino
Full of spontaneous invention in the manner of Schubert, the Sextet’s themes have been described as ‘flowing with Slavonic blood’. They are delightfully deployed in the course of the first movement and well contrasted, the second subject being in the mediant. There is but a short development section before the recapitulation which is in F sharp instead of the tonic key.
To describe the second movement Dvorák uses the Russian term ‘Dumka’, an indication of the employment of strongly contrasted sections, sometimes very sad and sometimes happy. Over a steady march-like rhythm Dvorák’s asymmetrical phrase structure assists in making this one of the composer’s most interestingly novel movements, incorporating slow gypsy music and a tender lullaby. A return to the rhapsodizing gypsies is made in the coda.
Although called ‘Furiant’, the following movement has none of the characteristic cross-rhythmic effects associated with this type of music. It is a vigorous scherzo which includes in its trio section an allusion to the first Slavonic Dance.
The last movement consists of five variations and stretta on a B minor theme which in truth seem not to have the spontaneity of the accompanying movements. The conclusion of the work is rather too boisterous and perhaps prolongs its leave-taking to its disadvantage.
from notes by Peter Lamb © 1988