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ClassicsOnline Home » DVORAK: Slavonic Dances, Opp. 46 and 72
"The sound is suitably full-blooded... I relished the detail in the recording—the chirping woodwind is a delight—and these are deftly-pointed, spirited, idiomatic performances, full of colour."
"A competent and even insightful reading. For most listeners, however, the sheer joy of the music will make this a recording to treasure. From the beginning of the first suite (Op. 46) we are drawn in by the spirited performance of Zdenek Kosler and the Slovak Philharmonic. The second suite (Op. 72) begins no less joyously, with a B major gallop reminiscent of Johann Strauss. Dance No. 12 opens with a light, reflective mood like a Debussy tone poem, and the atmosphere is perfectly controlled by Kosler's sensitive conducting. In contrast, the "Dance No. 15" is orchestral fireworks from beginning to end.
The orchestra is displayed in full, rich sound, precisely detailed. The tone balance is right, pleasingly bright at the high end and warm, but not overpowering, in the mid- and low-ranges."
Dvořák (1841 - 1904)
Slavonic Dances (First Series), Opus 46
Slavonic Dances (Second Series), Opus 72
Dvořák must be considered the greatest of the Czech nationalist composers
of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and he certainly enjoys the
widest international popularity. His achievement was to bring together music
that derived its inspiration from Bohemia's woods and fields with the classical
traditions continued by Brahms in Vienna.
born in 1841 in a village of Bohemia, where his father combined the trades of
inn-keeper and butcher, which it was expected that his son would later follow.
As a child he played in his father's village band, his early training as a
violinist in the hands of the village schoolmaster. Schooling in Zlonice, where
he was sent at the age of twelve, lodging with an uncle, allowed instruction in
the rudiments of music from Antonín Liehmann. Two years later he was sent to
Kamenice to learn German, but the following year the needs of his family made
it necessary for him to return to Zlonice, where his parents had now settled,
to help in the butcher's shop. Liehmann continued his lessons and persuaded his
father to allow him to study in Prague. In 1857 he entered the Prague Organ
School, where he was able to remain for two years.
first earned his living in Prague playing the viola in a band led by Karel
Komsak, which was later to form part of the Provisional Theatre orchestra,
established in 1862. He was to become principal viola-player and to continue as
an orchestral player for the next nine years, for some time under the direction
of Smetana, who exercised considerable influence on Dvořák's parallel work
as a composer.
Dvořák found himself able to resign from the Provisional Theatre orchestra
and to marry. He took a position as organist at the church of St. Adalbert,
taught a few pupils and otherwise devoted himself to composition. It was
through the encouragement of Brahms, four years later, that his music was
brought gradually to the attention of a much wider public. In particular Brahms
was able to persuade Simrock to publish Dvořák's Moravian Duets. Their success was followed
by the publisher's request for a further set, the first series of Slavonic
Dances, Opus 46, also composed for piano duet, but orchestrated at the same
time by the composer. The same year, 1878, saw the composition of the three Slavonic Rhapsodies, Opus 45.
From this time
onwards Dvořák's fame was to grow and he was to win particular popularity
in Germany and in England, visiting the latter country on several occasions and
fulfilling commissions for choral works for Birmingham and Leeds.
In 1891 he was appointed professor of composition at Prague
Conservatory and the following year accepted an invitation to go to New York as
director of the new National Conservatory. The period in America gave rise to
one of his best known works, the Symphony "From the New World". By
1895 he was back again in Prague, teaching at the Conservatory, of which he
became director in 1901. He died two years later.
Dvořák wrote his first set of Slavonic Dances in August, 1878,
designing the dances for piano duet, but scoring them for orchestra at the same
time. The composition was in response to a commission from the publisher
Simrock, after the great success of the Moravian
Duets, published by Simrock at the suggestion of Brahms, who had
enjoyed similar success in a similar market with his Hungarian Dancesfor piano duet, published in 1869.
The second series of Slavonic Dances
were written during the summer of 1886, and orchestrated during the winter. The
task took him rather longer than the first series of eight dances had done, but
Dvořák succeeded in continuing in the spirit that had informed the earlier
set, adding eight dances that are in no way less inspired than the first eight.
While Brahms in his Hungarian Dances
had generally offered arrangements of existing melodies, Dvořák offers
something entirely original, although the Slavonic Dances are essentially in
the musical language of Bohemia and neighbouring regions. As so often, he
writes music that is utterly characteristic of the folk-music with which he was
familiar, without resorting to direct quotation. Not only have the dances the
rhythmic and melodic shape of folk-dances, but they are enhanced by subtlety of
orchestration and by the use of additional subsidiary musical ideas to which
over-familiarity should not blind us.
The forms of dance used include the very typical Furiant, as in the
first and eighth dance, the Dumka, a Polka, the slowish country waltz of the Sousedská, the Skocná, with its hopping step and Serbian dances that had
been absorbed into a living tradition of folk-dance.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, established as a professional
orchestra in Bratislava (formerly Pressburg) in 1949, has won itself a
considerable reputation during its relatively short existence.
Slovakia, which, with Bohemia and Moravia, became the Republic of
Czechoslovakia in 1918, was the source of a great deal of music during the
years of the Habsburg Empire. This musically fertile region has been influenced
by Viennese, Hungarian and Bohemian music and it is these influences that have
given the Slovak Philharmonic, one of Europe's finest orchestras, its unique
character. On its many international tours, and at festivals throughout Europe,
the orchestra has been praised for its great musicality and has been compared
by enthusiastic critics with such
world-class orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic.
Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its
distinguished conductors. These included Vaclav Talich (1949- 1952), Ludovit
Rajter and Ladislav Slovak. The Czech conductor Libor Pesek was appointed
resident conductor in 1981, and the present Principal Conductor is the Slovak
musician Bystrik Rezucha. Zdenek Kosler has also had a long and distinguished
association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most successful
recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvořák.
During the years of its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic
has, worked under the direction of many of the most distinguished conductors
from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal
Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to
Germany and Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus
label, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo
and Naxos labels. These recordings have brought the orchestra a growing
international reputation and praise from the critics of leading international
The Czech conductor Zdenék Košler studied under Karel Ancerl at the
Prague Academy of Arts, and distinguished himself early in his career at the
Besançon Conductors' Competition and in the Dimitri Mitropoulos Competition in
New York. The first prize in the second of these enabled him to work as
assistant conductor with Leonard Bernstein for one year.
In Czechoslovakia Košler began as conductor of the Prague opera
ensemble, before becoming chief conductor and music director of the opera in
Olomouc and Ostrava. He spent a short time as permanent conductor of the Prague
Symphony Orchestra, before moving to Berlin, where he was appointed Music
Director of the Komische Oper in 1965. In 1971 he became chief conductor of the
Slovak National Theatre Opera, undertaking engagements at the same time with
the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducting the Czech Philharmonic
Orchestra in Prague, in addition to guest appearances with major orchestras
abroad, in Europe, Canada and the Far East.
From 1980 until 1985 he was chief conductor and artistic director of
the Prague National Theatre Opera. Kosler has received the highest national
honour, the title National Artist from the Czechoslovakian government, while
winning awards abroad for his recordings.
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DVORAK: Slavonic Dances, Opp. 46 and 72