Rhapsody in A minor (Symphonic Poem), Op. 14, B44

Opus number

14

Burghauser catalogue number

44

Date of composition

August 1874 - 12 September 1874

Premiere - date and place

3 November 1904, Prague

Premiere performer(s)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Oskar Nedbal

First edition

Simrock, 1912, Berlin

Main key

A minor

Instrumentation

1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, harp, violins, violas, cellos, double basses

Duration

approx. 17 min.

Rhapsody in A minor was probably written under the influence of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, naturally the difference being that, instead of Hungarian national songs, it was to derive from the folk music of Slav nations. Dvorak planned a whole cycle of similar pieces, but he ultimately only made this one attempt: the piece did not evolve as he had imagined, particularly from a structural point of view, so he abandoned the idea of a complete series. He revived his plan four years later with his Slavonic Rhapsodies Op. 45, this time to great acclaim. The Rhapsody in A minor, which Dvorak also described as a symphonic poem, grows up from two fundamental contrasting themes (a secondary theme is later introduced as well) which undergo various changes of mood. The work is not structured around any generally applied form, but instead comprises several inter-connected sections which gradually become brighter and more vivacious as the music moves towards its triumphant conclusion. The piece was never presented during Dvorak’s lifetime; the premiere took place on 3 November 1904, performed by the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Oskar Nedbal, and it wasn’t until much later, in 1912, that the Rhapsody was finally published by the Berlin firm Simrock.