Four Songs on the Words of Serbian Folk Poems, Op. 6, B29
Burghauser catalogue number
Date of composition
September (?) 1872, (revision: 1879 (?))
Premiere - date and place
Simrock, 1879, Berlin
Serbian folk poems, Czech translation: Siegfried Kapper
Parts / movements
1. The Maiden and the Grass (Panenka a tráva)
2. Warning (Připamatování)
3. Flowery Omens (Výklad znamení)
4. No Escape (Lásce neujdeš)
approx. 8 min. 30 sec.
Four Songs on the Words of Serbian Folk Poems originating in 1872 is the first instance in which Dvořák set his music to folk texts. The cycle is written to Czech translations of Serbian folk poems from the collection Songs of the Serbian People, which had been published in Prague shortly before in an anthology of world poetry. That Dvořák chose this as a source clearly suggests an inclination towards Slav themes which would be well represented in his oeuvre several years later. The songs also betray an approach that the composer applied here for the first time which became characteristic of his subsequent writing: Dvořák does not paraphrase the melodies of the folk songs; he uses the literary source on its own, writing a new musical setting incorporating typical folkloric elements. The result is a convincing, unique musical stylisation of the given folk songs. With the exception of the song Warning, which reveals a tendency towards through-composition, all the songs observe a strophic form and are distinguished for their spontaneity and directness, and their transparent piano accompaniment. This is one of the first works which clearly document a move away from the composer’s “Neo-Romantic” period of the late 1860s. The cycle was published by Simrock in 1879 and was dedicated to the alto Amalie Joachim, the wife of violin virtuoso and Dvořák’s friend, Joseph Joachim.