Songs on Words by Eliška Krásnohorská, B23

Opus number

Burghauser catalogue number

23

Date of composition

November 1871

Premiere - date and place

No. 5: 10 December 1871, Prague
No. 2: 10 April 1872, Prague
complete performance: ?

Premiere performer(s)

No. 5: Emilie Bubenickova + ?
No. 2: Anna Kupkova + ?
complete performance: ?

First edition

Nos. 2 and 4: Schlesinger (Robert Lienau), 1880, Berlin
complete edition: SNKLHU, 1959, Prague

Author of the text

Eliska Krasnohorska

Parts / movements

1. Linden Trees (Lipy)
2. The Reason (Proto)
3. Obstacles (Prekazky)
4. Meditation (Premitani)
5. Remembrance (Vzpominani)

Duration

approx. 11 min.

composition history

In November 1871 music critic Ludevit Prochazka published an article in Hudebni listy in which he took issue with the fact that Czech songs were being neglected – by both composers and performers. In order to spark the interest of composers and audiences in this genre, he decided to organise the occasional “informal evening of songs”, which would introduce new songs by domestic composers. Dvorak responded to Prochazka’s appeal by writing a group of songs for which he chose texts from the recently published collection by Eliska Krasnohorska, Life in May. The performance of the fifth song from this cycle, “Remembrance”, at the second “informal evening of songs” on 10 December 1871 is important chiefly for the reason that this was the first ever public performance of a work by Dvorak (the composer was already 30 years old at that stage!); and it was also the first time that he would have read reviews of his work by the music critics of the day.

general characteristics

This work is an important milestone in the development of Dvorak’s song oeuvre. It was written in a period when the impact of the German Neo-Romantics on the composer’s work was beginning to wane, yet certain elements of this, Dvorak’s “Wagnerian” period, are still present in his songs. This influence was chiefly reflected in his fondness for unusual modulations and “false” closures to the melodic lines. On the other hand, however, the songs now betrayed aspects of Dvorak’s later distinctive compositional style. Apart from the song “The Reason”, which observes a pure strophic form, the remainder is essentially through-composed with traces of the strophic structure.