Suite in A major, Op. 98b, B190
Burghauser catalogue number
Date of composition
19 January 1895 – ?
Premiere - date and place
1 March 1910, Prague
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Karel Kovařovic
Simrock, 1911, Berlin
1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, violins, violas, cellos, double basses
Parts / movements
1. Andante con moto
3. Moderato alla polacca
approx. 21 min.
The Suite in A major was written at the beginning of 1894 as a five-movement piano piece which Dvořák arranged for orchestra a year later. As if feeling the need to remove himself from the hectic atmosphere of the recent premiere of the New World Symphony, he turned his attention to an intimate work of restraint and humility. Although the thematic material maintains a certain “American” tone, from a formal point of view, it is similar in type to the Serenade in E major, the Serenade in D minor or the Czech Suite. As in these previous works, this Suite demonstrates the composer’s extraordinary sense of small forms. Each of the five movements treats strong themes developed with an uncommon degree of imagery via all manner of compositional techniques. As with both Serenades, Dvořák again returns at the end of the last movement to the principal theme of the introductory movement in order to bring the work to a convincing close.
The work is a suite in the broadest sense: a sequence of five movements of differing expression, arranged according to the law of contrast. The first movement has a festive atmosphere and sets the mood as a kind of prelude to the entire cycle. The “American” tone of the work has already been established by the third bar in the use of marked syncopation. The second movement, prescribed “Molto vivace”, is an analogy of a sonata-form scherzo, with distinctive use of triplets in both the melodic line and the lower voices, introducing a high degree of mobility. The third movement is written as a rondo, whose principal theme is reminiscent of a polonaise or “sousedská”, a Czech folk dance. The fourth movement is a typical example of Dvořák’s lyricism – here a kind of dream-like nocturne stemming from a single melodic idea which is subject to variation as the work progresses. The suite closes with a confident Allegro whose main theme in its basic form calls to mind the final movement of the New World Symphony. The piece ends with a memento of the first movement.