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ClassicsOnline Home » DVORAK, A.: Serenade in E major, Op. 22 / Terzetto in C major, Op. 74 / Old Folks at Home, B. 605 (Dvorak Discoveries) (Richman)
The prize discovery on this unusual disc is a recording of Dvorák’s familiar Opus 22, but in the arrangement for which it was originally composed in 1873. The combination of instruments, which Dvorák first employed, was an octet consisting of two violins, viola, double bass, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano. That score no longer exists, but musicologist Nicholas Ingman prepared the realization of the original that is heard on this disc. I don’t think that this reconstruction of Dvorák’s original intentions will replace his arrangement for string orchestra, which was published two years later, and which is the version that is almost always heard, today. Furthermore, and as others have argued, we will never know how Ingman’s arrangement compares to the original. Despite these reservations, I think that this version, as played by the Harmony Ensemble, is well worth listening to. I found it to be a refreshing antidote to some syrupy performances of the Serenade for Strings that I’ve heard. There is only one other recording of this version of the Opus 22 that I was able to find, by members of the Czech Nonet, on Musical Concepts and some other labels. However, I have not heard that performance.
Another Dvorák “discovery” played here is his arrangement of Stephen Foster’s, Old Folks at Home, for baritone, chorus and orchestra. It dates from the composer’s sojourn in the U.S., when he was the Director of the National Conservatory in New York. The work should be of interest to all who study the history of music in the U.S., as it reflects upon Dvorák’s involvement in defining an American national music. However, it is not great music, and it does justice neither to Dvorák, nor to Foster. The album notes acknowledge the influence of Harry T. Burleigh, who was a student at the National Consevatory (not Dvorák’s student, although he assisted the Czech composer, and was important in introducing him to Foster’s music and also Negro Spirituals). Burleigh sang the solo part in the first, and only public performance of the work, in 1894. Burleigh was reported to have had a wonderful voice, as well as being a composer and arranger of songs. He enjoyed a long career as a vocal soloist at St. Georges Church and Temple Emanu-El synagogue, both in New York. A recording from 1919, of Burleigh singing Go Down Moses, that is included on this disc is of historic interest, but may not show him at the peak of his form.
The other work on the album, Dvorák’s not altogether unknown Terzetto, Op. 74, for two violins and viola, receives a competent performance.more....
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DVORAK, A.: Serenade in E major, Op. 22 / Terzetto...