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the orphan

COMPOSED November, December (?) 1871
PREMIERE - DATE AND PLACE 10 April 1872, Prague
PREMIERE - PERFORMER(S) Anna Kupkova + ?
FIRST EDITION Urbanek, 1883, Prague
TEXT Karel Jaromir Erben
approx. 6 min.


In November 1871 music critic Ludevit Prochazka published an article in Hudebni listy in which he took issue with the fact that Czech songs were being neglected – by both composers and performers. In order to spark the interest of composers and audiences in this genre, he decided to organise the occasional “informal evening of songs”, which would introduce new songs by domestic composers. Dvorak responded to Prochazka’s appeal by writing, alongside Songs on Words by Eliska Krasnohorska, a musical setting of the ballad by Karel Jaromir Erben “The Orphan’s Bed”. This was Dvorak’s first encounter with Erben’s poems and ballads, to which he later returned on several occasions. The composer chose a strophic form for “The Orphan’s Bed”, where two stanzas of text always correspond to one musical stanza. The latter is repeated three times, each time with small declamatory and recitative changes. This is the longest song in the composer’s entire song oeuvre. The work was first published in 1883 by Prague-based publisher Frantisek Urbanek and bore the title The Orphan.