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Songs on the Words of the Dvur Kralove Manuscript

opus number
Burghauser catalogue number
30 
composed
No. 2: 2 February 1872
Nos. 1 and 3-5: 14 September - 21 September 1872 (revision: 1879) 
premiere - date and place
No. 3: 24 April 1873, Jindrichuv Hradec
No. 5: 21 April 1874, Prague
premiere - performer(s)
24 April 1873: ?
21 April 1874: Marta Prochazkova, Karel Slavkovsky 
text
Vaclav Hanka 
parts / movements
1. The Cuckoo (Zezhulice)
2. The Forsaken (Opuscena)
3. The Lark (Skrivanek)
4. The Rose (Roze)
5. The Bouquet (Kytice)
6. The Strawberries (Jahody) 
duration
approx. 16 min. 

    


In deciding to write a musical setting of poems from the Dvur Kralove Manuscript, Dvorak joined the ranks of a series of artists who were inspired by this ingenious forgery in their own work. At the time Dvorak was writing his composition, however, the Manuscript was still regarded as the pride of Czech national literature and, as such, one may consider its musical setting as an expression of the composer’s patriotic sentiments. The Songs were written in 1872 and are an important testimony of the development of his compositional style as one of the first works in which Dvorak turned away from German Neo-Romanticism and sought to establish his own distinctive brand of music. Dvorak wrote settings for all six love poems from the Manuscript, using a broad palette of compositional approaches: the first three songs are strophic in character, and the second set of three are through-composed; some of the songs (in particular, “The Strawberries”) are reminiscent of folk songs, while others are distinctive for their imitative qualities in the piano accompaniment (imitation of the sound of the cuckoo call in the song “The Cuckoo”); certain songs (primarily “The Bouquet”) are constructed upon a daring harmonic scheme. This last aspect was slated by period critics for what they termed the “unseemly modernisation” of ancient texts. This collection was the first ever work by Dvorak to appear in print: the song “The Lark” was published on 7 March 1873 as a supplement to the tenth issue of Dalibor magazine and, two months later, the entire cycle was brought out by Prague publisher Emanuel Stary.