Four Songs, Op. 82, B157

Opus number


Burghauser catalogue number


Date of composition

completed 5 January 1888

Premiere - date and place


Premiere performer(s)


First edition

Simrock, 1888, Berlin

Author of the text

Otilie Malybrok-Stieler

Parts / movements

1. Leave Me Alone (Kéž duch můj sám)
2. The Embroideress (Při vyšívání)
3. Springtime (Jaro)
4. At the Brook (U potoka)


approx. 8 min. 30 sec.

composition history

Dvořák composed Four Songs in late 1887 and early 1888 for his main publisher Simrock as compensation for lost profits from the publication of the cycle Songs on the Words of the Dvůr Králové Manuscript. The fledgling composer had at one time surrendered this much earlier work to the Prague publisher Emanuel Starý without charging him, and he later also had the work published by Simrock. Now, however, the London-based firm Novello decided to purchase the songs from Starý and planned to publish them as well, for which Simrock took Dvořák to task. The composer defended his actions, pleading ignorance of business practices, and smoothed out the disagreement by promising to deliver, at no cost, “a set of songs as beautiful as the Op. 7 I wrote fifteen years ago, if not better.” For his musical setting Dvořák chose four poems from the collection by Otilie Malybrock–Stieler Lyrische Gedichte und Übertragungen nach böhmischer Kunst- und Volks-Poesie (Lyrical poems and translations based on Bohemian art and folk poetry), which had been published in Prague that same year. The songs were written to the original German poems Lasst mich allein (Leave Me Alone), Die Stickerin (The Embroideress), Frühling (Springtime) and Am Bache (At the Brook), which were subsequently translated into Czech by the composer’s friend Václav Juda Novotný. Dvořák dedicated the work to Sophie Hanslick, the wife of music critic and aesthetician Eduard Hanslick. Simrock published the songs directly, in 1888, with texts in Czech, German and English.

general characteristics

The individual song miniatures have wonderful melodies and demonstrate the ideal synthesis of vocal line and piano accompaniment. The first and fourth songs are written in strophic form; the second and third songs adopt a symmetrical three-part scheme. The second song (The Embroideress) follows a remarkable harmonic scheme with the irregular repetition of the opening segment in a different key. The third song (Springtime) sees the composer using semiquaver figures in the piano accompaniment to evoke the freshness of nature in springtime. In a similar way, the piano in the fourth song (At the Brook) conjures up the sound of water burbling in a stream. Much better known is the first song (Leave Me Alone); in its wonderful arching melodic line and intense emotive expression, it is probably one of the finest from the composer’s song oeuvre. According to a period critic, “with the song Leave Me Alone, Dvořák has attained Schubert’s heights. In the past, the latter was his example; now independent, he stands at his side as his equal.” The song was a favourite of Josefina Kounicová, the composer’s love from his young days, later his sister-in-law. When she was dying in 1895, Dvořák decided to use a quotation from this song in his Cello Concerto in B minor, which he was writing at the time.