Recorded on 10/01/1995, uploaded on 10/01/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Standing alongside his “American” quartet as one of his most popular chamber works, Dvořák composed his Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, known by its nickname “Dumky,” just prior to his trip to the United States to take up his position as head of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Unlike earlier compositions where Dvořák had only used the dumka as a single movement in a larger Classical structure, with the Piano Trio No. 4 he instead based the entire trio on it. The duma, of which dumka is the diminutive, was a Ukrainian epic ballad often melancholy and introspective in character. Several Slavic composers, chief among them being Dvořák, fused their formal compositions with their Slavic traditions and the Ukrainian duma. These dumky (plural form of dumka) took the form of a melancholic refrain alternating with lively and energetic Slavic dances.
Abandoning a clearly perceived Classical four-movement pattern, each of the trio’s six movements is a dumka. The first three of these are performed together without break whereas the last three are not, giving the work a faint semblance of a four-movement structure. Furthermore, the first three also share a strong harmonic link in their use of nearly-related keys—E minor and major in the first, C-sharp minor in the second, and A major in the third. The last three dumky venture into more distantly related keys, which lends to the implied four-movement pattern. Interestingly, Dvořák does not return to the opening key of E minor for the last dumka. Instead, he begins the finale in the distant key of C minor and concludes in the major.
The “Dumky” Trio was premiered in Prague on April 11, 1891 to great success. Indeed, the work was so well-received it was presented on forty-concert tour of Moravia and Bohemia. Already in the United States by the time of its publication, Dvořák left the careful task of proofreading the work to none other than Johannes Brahms. Joseph DuBose
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