String Quartet No. 3 in D major, B18

Opus number

Burghauser catalogue number


Date of composition

around 1869

Premiere - date and place

12 January 1969, Prague

Premiere performer(s)

Dvořák Quartet (Stanislav Srp, Jiří Kolář, Jaroslav Ruis, František Pišinger)

First edition

Státní hudební vydavatelství, 1964, Prague

Main key

D major

Parts / movements

1. Allegro con brio
2. Andantino
3. Allegro energico. Trio
4. Finale. Allegretto


approx. 65 min.

The String Quartet in D major is the second of three stylistically related string quartets which appeared sometime between the years 1869–1870. The precise date of its 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 (for the most part undertaken by someone other than Dvořák himself) 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. In general, the Quartet in D major may be characterised as the second of Dvořák’s attempts to apply certain distinctive traits of Wagner’s compositional style to the chamber music genre. Typically, this concerns a proliferation of musical ideas which resulted in a composition of unusual length – this is the composer’s longest chamber piece lasting, unabridged, for over an hour. Unlike his previous Quartet in B flat major, this one has greater diversity in its thematic material, greater contrasts and clear connections with traditional forms which enable the listener to find his bearings more easily in the individual movements. While the first movement contains an outline of sonata form, both central movements are written in the classical three-part form, and the fourth movement is a rondo. It is worth noting that, in the third movement, Dvořák treats the theme of the song Hey, Slavs!. The use of this melody in the string quartet format suggests a certain measure of naivety, and it certainly does not fit in with the general stylistic framework of the piece. However, this inspirational source is not only proof of the composer’s sense of patriotism, but also a product of the troubled socio-political situation at the end of the 1860s. The premiere of the work and possibly its only public performance was held in Prague decades after the composer’s death, on 12 January 1969.