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Three Modern Greek Poems

BURGHAUSER CATALOGUE NUMBER orchestral version: 84a
piano version: 84b
COMPOSED completed 22 August 1878
PREMIERE - DATE AND PLACE orchestral version: 17 November 1878, Prague
piano version - No. 1: 29 June 1879, Turnov
piano version - complete performance: ?
PREMIERE - PERFORMER(S) orchestral version: Josef Lev, Provisional Theatre Orchestra, conductor Antonin Dvorak
piano version - No. 1: Alois Gobl, piano: Antonin Dvorak
piano version - complete performance: ?
FIRST EDITION orchestral version: not published yet
piano version: Hainauer, 1883, Wrocław
TEXT Modern Greek folk poetry, Czech translation: Vaclav Bolemir Nebesky
PARTS / MOVEMENTS 1. Klepht Song (Koljas)
2. Nereids (Nereidy)
3. Parga's Lament (Zalozpev Pargy)
approx. 13 min.


Dvorak wrote the cycle Three Modern Greek Poems in the summer of 1878. He took his literary source from a collection of Greek folk poems translated into Czech, published in 1864 by poet Vaclav Bolemir Nebesky as Modern Greek Folk Songs. Dvorak chose three poems of a predominantly balladic character with dramatic endings, aspects which he further emphasised in their musical settings: all three are composed in a minor key, the music is restless and undergoes various unusual modulations. The composer’s endeavour to emulate the rare temperament of modern Greek poetry gave rise to a largely “un-Dvorakian” interpretation, which is probably the reason this song cycle tends to be overlooked. The work was premiered at Dvorak’s first independent concert on 17 November 1878, at which the composer was introduced to the Prague public as both composer and conductor for the first time. The songs were performed by baritone at the National Theatre Josef Lev, in an arrangement for voice and orchestra which is no longer in existence. The piano version has survived in the composer’s manuscript, as well as in printed form, published by Hainauer in 1883. 
title page of the score