String Quartet No. 2 in B flat major, B17

Opus number

Burghauser catalogue number


Date of composition

around 1869

Premiere - date and place

private performance: 16 November 1932, Prague
public performance: 15 September 2021, Prague

Premiere performer(s)

private performance: Ondříček Quartet
public performance: Zemlinsky Quartet

First edition

Státní hudební vydavatelství, 1962, Prague

Main key

B major

Parts / movements

1. Allegro ma non troppo
2. Largo
3. Allegro con brio
4. Finale: Andante – Allegro giusto – Allegro con fuoco


approx. 48 min.

The String Quartet in B flat major is part of a group of three stylistically related string quartets which appeared around the year 1869. The precise date of their origin is unknown, since the original score has not survived (Dvořák later destroyed it) and the work existed only in undated copies of the individual parts which were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century in the possession of violinist and director of the Prague Conservatoire, Antonín Bennewitz. The late 1860s and early 1870s was a period in which, after the first stage of his musical career, Dvořák moved away from Classical models to concentrate fully on the works of the German Neo-Romantics, Wagner and Liszt. He appeared to have attempted to create in his Quartet in B flat major a kind of chamber counterpart to the monumental Wagnerian scores: none of the movements is written in any traditional form, but instead they represent an unending stream of music without clear divisions or the reappearance of previous passages. The individual movements are more characteristic of sections of improvisation with no points at which the listener can find his bearings in the overall structure. Similarly, the nature of the thematic treatment is such that we would have difficulty identifying the kind of clearly arranged and distinctive melodies Dvořák would produce later on in his career. Looseness of form, and the manner in which the themes are developed, affects the overall length of the quartet; more than three quarters of an hour long, this work is Dvořák’s second longest chamber piece. Its first known public performance did not take place until 2021 in an interpretation by the Zemlinsky Quartet.