Bagatelles for Two Violins, Cello and Harmonium, Op. 47, B79

Opus number


Burghauser catalogue number


Date of composition

1 May – 12 May 1878

Premiere - date and place

2 February 1879, Prague

Premiere performer(s)

Ferdinand Lachner, Vorel, Alois Neruda, Antonín Dvořák

First edition

Simrock, 1880, Berlin

Parts / movements

1. Allegretto scherzando
2. Tempo di minuetto. Grazioso
3. Allegretto scherzando
4. Canon. Andante con moto
5. Poco Allegro


approx 18 min.

Dvořák wrote Bagatelles for Two Violins, Cello and Harmonium for his friend, the cellist Josef Srb-Debrnov, who organised small chamber concerts at his home. However, he did not have a piano at his disposal, but a harmonium instead – thus the unusual instrumentation of this little piece. In it the composer respects the requirements of this type of work, which is chiefly intended for domestic music-making; in no way, however, does this detract from its merits as a fine piece of writing. Each of the five short movements is built up around a single theme within what seem at first to be very simple outlines. This apparent simplicity, however, conceals great proficiency in the way the individual voices are conducted and interwoven, also the composer’s fine sense of the tone colour of combinations of sound, and the formal excellence of the piece as a whole. The first, third and fifth movements are lively and humorous in character and, with the use of the main theme from the first movement in both the third and fifth movements as well, the entire cycle acquires a sense of cohesion. The second and fourth movements introduce a contrast into the cycle, given their slower tempos and more lyrical expression. The whole of the fourth movement is written as a two-part canon, with the second voice following one bar behind the first. The piece was performed in public for the first time in Prague in February 1879 at a concert organised by the artists’ association Umělecká beseda, with Antonín Dvořák at the harmonium. The work was published that same year in an arrangement for four-hand piano, and a year later in its original version, in both cases by the Berlin publisher Simrock