Sonatina for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 100, B183
Burghauser catalogue number
Date of composition
19 November – 3 December 1893
Premiere - date and place
private performance: December 1893, New York
public performance: (?) 10 January 1896, Brno
private performance: Antonin Dvořák Jr., Otilie Dvořáková
public performance: (?) Rudolf Reissig, Marie Kuhlová-Jelínková
Simrock, 1894, Berlin
Parts / movements
1. Allegro risoluto
3. Scherzo. Molto vivace
4. Finale. Allegro
approx. 20 min.
The Sonatina in G major was written in New York over a two-week period in late November and early December 1893 during the second school year of the composer’s tenure at the National Conservatory. Dvořák was aware of the fact that this was now his 100th opus (“officially” his 100th, since he had, in fact, written many more) and he decided to celebrate the fact “a la Dvořák”: he dedicated the work “to my little children”, as the dedication reads on the printed score. Above all to Otilie, who was learning the piano with Dvořák’s colleague from the Conservatoire, Adele Margulies, and Antonín, who was studying the violin with Josef Kovařík. Both children performed the work in a private premiere.
The Sonatina in G major can probably be regarded as the most popular and most frequently performed work of the composer’s oeuvre for this combination of instruments. It is perhaps best described by Dvořák himself when he informed his publisher Simrock about the piece: “It is meant for young people, but also for adults, let them enjoy it, too, they’ll have fun playing it as well.” Both parts are indeed written fairly simply, and are not all that technically demanding. But the composer wasn’t going to make his own task too easy. Within the traditional form, the musical ideas are developed in a highly original way, involving intriguing deviations in the exposition of the individual themes. The mood of the sonata is light-hearted and invigorating, although we will catch a waft of melancholy at certain points. Like other works from Dvořák’s American period, the sonatina employs the pentatonic scale and syncopated rhythms, among others.
The first movement is written in sonata form and has three themes. Its overall tone is determined by the main subject with its energetic four-bar introduction, which also plays an important role in the development section. The movement ends surprisingly in a soft, tranquil coda. The main theme of the second movement supposedly came to Dvořák as he watched the Minnehaha waterfall. This is a melancholic piece of music which, for its melodic beauty and strong emotional impact, was later published independently under various romantic-sounding titles (“Indian lullaby”, “Indian lament” and so on.). The third movement is a little scherzo, with identical rhythmical outer sections and a contrasting trio. The fourth movement is once again a sonata-form scheme with three themes. Dvořák’s “American” inspiration is particularly prevalent in the secondary theme which is strongly reminiscent of Native American drum beats, as was the case in the composer’s previous work, the String Quintet in E flat major. The movement finishes off with an impressive coda structured around the first two bars of the main subject.