185. In Dvorak’s Chamber
- Dvořák: Gypsy Songs, Op. 55
- Dvořák: String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 77
For our 185th podcast program, we’ll hear from Antonin Dvořák, focusing on two of his chamber works.
We begin with Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, opus 55. The cycle of seven songs is based on Czech poetry by Adolf Heyduk about the lives of Slovakian gypsies. But Dvořák chose to premiere and publish the songs in a German translation of the original text. The cycle was fairly successful; in particular, the song at the heart of the cycle—the fourth of seven—has become one of his best-known, usually translated in English as “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” Throughout, the songs are both lyrical and spirited, combining the flavor of gypsy music with the sophistication of Western art song.
After the songs, we’ll turn to Dvořák’s second string quintet, opus 77. Written in 1874, the string quintet is among Dvořák’s earliest mature works. At the time of its composition, he had been working in relative anonymity in Prague. The music itself, though, reveals a composer already in possession of a unique and self-assured voice, with a gift for melody and a wonderful knack for writing spirited, dance-infused passages.