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Make Music Part of Your Life Series: Antonin Dvorak: Humoresque #7 in Gb Op 101/7: Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman


Humoresques (Czech: Humoresky), Op. 101 (B. 187), is a piano cycle by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, written during the summer of 1894. One writer says “the seventh Humoresque is probably the most famous small piano work ever written after Beethoven‘s Für Elise[1]

History
During his stay in America, when Dvořák was director of the Conservatory in New York from 1892 to 1895, the composer collected many interesting musical themes in his sketchbooks. He used some of these ideas in other compositions, notably the “From the New World” Symphony, the “American” String Quartet, the Quintet in E Flat Major, and the Sonatina for Violin, but some remained unused.

In 1894 Dvořák spent the summer with his family in Bohemia, at Vysoká u Příbrami. During this “vacation”, Dvořák began to use the collected material and to compose a new cycle of short piano pieces. On 19 July 1894 Dvořák sketched the first Humoresque in B major, today number 6 in the cycle. However, the composer soon started to create scores for the pieces that were intended to be published. The score was completed on 27 August 1894.
The cycle was entitled Humoresques shortly before Dvořák sent the score to his German publisher F. Simrock. The composition was published by Simrock in Autumn, 1894.
The publisher took advantage of the great popularity of the seventh Humoresque to produce arrangements for many instruments and ensembles. The piece was later also published as a song with various lyrics. It has also been arranged for choir.[2] The melody was also used as the theme of Slappy Squirrel in the popular animated television show Animaniacs. In 2004 the vocal group Beethoven’s Wig used Humoresque as the basis for a song entitled Dvořák the Czechoslovak.
Structure
The cycle consists of eight pieces:

  1. Vivace (E♭ minor)
  2. Poco andante (B major)
  3. Poco andante e molto cantabile (A♭ major)
  4. Poco andante (F major)
  5. Vivace (A minor)
  6. Poco allegretto (B major)
  7. Poco lento e grazioso (G♭ major)
  8. Poco andante—Vivace–Meno mosso, quasi Tempo I (B minor)

The main theme of the first Humoresque was sketched in New York on New Year’s Eve 1892, with the inscription “Marche funèbre” (sic).[3] The minor theme was accompanied with the inscription “people singing in the street”. The opening theme of the fourth piece was also sketched in New York, among ideas intended for the unrealized opera Hiawatha. The “American” style is also apparent in other themes of the Humoresques.[4]

Buy “Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major, Op. 101” on

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Hear, Hear: We all know Beethoven’s piano sonata “Fur Elise”…but What about “A Therese”? (Discover this genial composition here!)


Buy “Sonata, Opus 78 No. 24 in F Sharp Major: I. Adagio Cantabile-Allegro Ma Non Troppo” on

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The Piano Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp major, Op. 78, nicknamed “À Thérèse” (because it was written for Countess Thérèse von Brunswick) was written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1809. It consists of two movements:

  1. Adagio cantabile – Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Allegro vivace

A typical performance takes 10 minutes. The common practice of leaving out long repeated sections, such as the development and recapitulation in the first movement, would make two or three minutes’ difference to the total duration.

Maynard Solomon notes that this and the “Appassionata” sonata, op.57, were Beethoven’s favorite of his piano sonatas prior to the “Hammerklavier.” [1]