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bagatelles 

opus number
47 
Burghauser catalogue number
79 
composed
1 May - 12 May 1878 
premiere - date and place
2 February 1879, Prague
premiere - performer(s)
Ferdinand Lachner, Vorel, Alois Neruda, Antonin Dvorak 
parts / movements
1. Allegretto scherzando
2. Tempo di minuetto. Grazioso
3. Allegretto scherzando
4. Canon. Andante con moto
5. Poco Allegro 
duration
approx. 18 min. 


Dvorak wrote Bagatelles for Two Violins, Cello and Harmonium for his friend, the cellist Josef Srb-Debrnov, who organised small chamber concerts at his home. However, he did not have a piano at his disposal, but a harmonium instead – thus the unusual instrumentation of this little piece. In it the composer respects the requirements of this type of work, which is chiefly intended for domestic music-making; in no way, however, does this detract from its merits as a fine piece of writing. Each of the five short movements is built up around a single theme within what seem at first to be very simple outlines. This apparent simplicity, however, conceals great proficiency in the way the individual voices are conducted and interwoven, also the composer’s fine sense of the tone colour of combinations of sound, and the formal excellence of the piece as a whole. The first, third and fifth movements are lively and humorous in character and, with the use of the main theme from the first movement in both the third and fifth movements as well, the entire cycle acquires a sense of cohesion. The second and fourth movements introduce a contrast into the cycle, given their slower tempos and more lyrical expression. The whole of the fourth movement is written as a two-part canon, with the second voice following one bar behind the first. The piece was performed in public for the first time in Prague in February 1879 at a concert organised by the artists’ association Umelecka beseda, with Antonin Dvorak at the harmonium. The work was published that same year in an arrangement for four-hand piano, and a year later in its original version, in both cases by the Berlin publisher Simrock