česky | English

four songs 

opus number
82 
Burghauser catalogue number
157 
composed
completed 5 January 1888 
premiere - date and place
premiere - performer(s)
text
Otilie Malybrok-Stieler(ova) 
parts / movements
1. Leave Me Alone (Kez duch muj sam)
2. The Embroideress (Pri vysivani)
3. Springtime (Jaro)
4. At the Brook (U potoka) 
duration
approx. 8 min 30 sec. 

    


composition history

Dvorak composed Four Songs, Op. 82, in late 1887 and early 1888 for his main publisher Simrock as compensation for lost profits from the publication of the cycle Songs on the Words of the Dvur Kralove Manuscript. The fledgling composer had at one time surrendered this much earlier work to the Prague publisher Emanuel Stary without charging him, and he later also had the work published by Simrock. Now, however, the London-based firm Novello decided to purchase the songs from Stary and planned to publish them as well, for which Simrock took Dvorak to task. The composer defended his actions, pleading ignorance of business practices, and smoothed out the disagreement by promising to deliver, at no cost, “a set of songs as beautiful as the Op. 7 I wrote fifteen years ago, if not better.” For his musical setting Dvorak chose four poems from the collection by Otilie Malybrock–Stieler Lyrische Gedichte und Ubertragungen nach bohmischer Kunst- und Volks-Poesie, which had been published in Prague that same year. The songs were written to the original German poems “Lasst mich allein”, “Frühling”, “Am Bache” and “Die Stickerin”, which were subsequently translated into Czech by the composer’s friend Vaclav Juda Novotny. Dvorak dedicated the work to Sophie Hanslick, the wife of music critic and aesthetician Eduard Hanslick. Simrock published the songs directly, in 1888, with texts in Czech, German and English.


general characteristics

The individual song miniatures have wonderful melodies and demonstrate the ideal synthesis of vocal line and piano accompaniment. The first and fourth songs are written in strophic form; the second and third songs adopt a symmetrical three-part scheme. The second song (“The Embroideress”) follows a remarkable harmonic scheme with the irregular repetition of the opening segment in a different key. The third song (“Springtime”) sees the composer using semiquaver figures in the piano accompaniment to evoke the freshness of nature in springtime. In a similar way, the piano in the fourth song (“At the Brook”) conjures up the sound of water burbling in a stream. Much better known is the first song (“Leave Me Alone”); in its wonderful arching melodic line and intense emotive expression, it is probably one of the finest from the composer’s song oeuvre. According to a period critic, “with the song Leave Me Alone, Dvorak has attained Schubert’s heights. In the past, the latter was his example; now independent, he stands at his side as his equal.” The song was a favourite of Josefina Kounicova (Cermakova), the composer’s love from his young days, later his sister-in-law. When she was dying in 1895, Dvorak decided to use a quotation from this song in his Cello Concerto in B minor, which he was writing at the time.