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miniatures 

opus number
75a 
Burghauser catalogue number
149 
composed
January 1887 
premiere - date and place
private performance: January 1887, Prague
public performance: 24 February 1938, Prague (?) 
premiere - performer(s)
January 1887: Josef Kruis, Jan Pelikan, Antonin Dvorak
24 February 1938: Prague Quartet members (Vilibald Schwejda, Herbert Berger, Ladislav Cerny) 
parts / movements
1. Cavatina. Moderato
2. Capriccio. Poco allegro 
3. Romanza. Allegro
4. Elegia. Larghetto
duration
approx. 15 min. 


composition history

Dvorak’s former colleague from the Provisional Theatre Orchestra Jan Pelikan gave private violin lessons to student Josef Kruis, who rented accommodation in the same house as the Dvoraks. Dvorak occasionally played the viola with them and initially wrote his Terzetto in C major for their modest ensemble. He was unfamiliar with Kruis’s violin skills at the time, thus, when the piece proved too difficult, he wrote a simpler trio, today familiar as Miniatures, which he then rewrote in a more attractive arrangement for violin and piano. Dvorak labelled the trio in its original instrumentation for two violins and viola as “Bagatelles”, however, the work was published (only in 1945) under the title Miniatures, in order to avoid confusion with the composer’s Bagatelles for Two Violins, Cello and Harmonium. A version for violin and piano was published by Simrock back in 1887 entitled Romantic Pieces.


general characteristics

The formal arrangement of the piece is simplicity itself, a sequence of four short contrasting movements in which no attempt has been made to tie them in as a cycle. Each movement is constructed upon a single theme and has a consistent mood which is also expressed in the chosen subtitles: Cavatina, Capriccio, Romanza and Elegia. Dvorak is extremely economical with his themes, above all, in the fourth movement, the entire content of which is essentially based on a single, three-note motif, whose masterful treatment is powerfully eloquent. The essence of the work is probably best captured by Dvorak himself in a letter to his publisher Simrock: “I am writing some short Bagatelles at the moment, just think, for two violins and viola. My work brings me as much pleasure as if I were writing a major symphony – what do you say to that? They are, of course, aimed at amateur musicians, but didn’t Beethoven and Schumann also once write little pieces, and look what they came up with!”