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string quartet no. 3 

opus number
Burghauser catalogue number
18 
composed
around 1869 
premiere - date and place
12 January 1969, Prague
premiere - performer(s)
Dvorak Quartet (Stanislav Srp, Jiri Kolar, Jaroslav Ruis, Frantisek Pisinger)  
main key
D major 
parts / movements
1. Allegro con brio
2. Andantino
3. Allegro energico. Trio
4. Finale. Allegretto 
duration
approx. 65 min. 


The String Quartet in D major is the second of three stylistically related string quartets which appeared sometime between the years 1869-1870. The precise date of its origin is unknown, since the original score has not survived (Dvorak later destroyed it) and the work existed only in undated copies of the individual parts (for the most part undertaken by someone other than Dvorak himself) which were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century in the possession of violinist and director of the Prague Conservatoire, Antonin Bennewitz. The late 1860s and early 1870s was a period in which, after the first stage of his musical career, Dvorak moved away from Classical models to concentrate fully on the works of the German Neo-Romantics, Wagner and Liszt. In general, the Quartet in D major may be characterised as the second of Dvorak’s attempts to apply certain distinctive traits of Wagner’s compositional style to the chamber music genre. Typically, this concerns a proliferation of musical ideas which resulted in a composition of unusual length – this is the composer’s longest chamber piece lasting, unabridged, for over an hour. Unlike his previous Quartet in B flat major, this one has greater diversity in its thematic material, greater contrasts and clear connections with traditional forms which enable the listener to find his bearings more easily in the individual movements. While the first movement contains an outline of sonata form, both central movements are written in the classical three-part form, and the fourth movement is a rondo. It is worth noting that, in the third movement, Dvorak treats the theme of the song Hey, Slavs!. The use of this melody in the string quartet format suggests a certain measure of naivety, and it certainly does not fit in with the general stylistic framework of the piece. This inspirational source is not only proof of the composer’s sense of patriotism, but also a product of the troubled socio-political situation at the end of the 1860s. The premiere of the work (and possibly its only public performance) was held in Prague decades after the composer’s death, on 12 January 1969.