Recorded on 04/08/2007, uploaded on 04/08/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
From 1892 to 1895, Dvořák worked as the director of the recently formed National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Though a great opportunity, Dvořák suffered from homesickness. Longing to once again see his homeland, he spent the summer of 1894 with his family in his native Bohemia. While there, Dvořák began composing a cycle of short piano pieces inspired by the melodies he heard in America. Eight pieces in all, the set was titled Humoresques and published by Simrock later that year. Among them the seventh is the most well-known and stands among Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and Für Elise, Schubert’s Death and the Maiden and Brahms’s Lullaby as one of classical music’s most recognizable melodies.
Cast in Dvořák’s favorite tripartite form, the blithely skipping tune for which the Humoresque is so popular begins unannounced with simple chords underneath. Itself a minute ternary form, the second strain of the melody is more lyrical, reaching first up an octave only to fall back down with delightful suspensions. The first strain is then repeated with the ending altered by a characteristic chromatic inflection, closing the first section of the piece. In contrast, the middle section changes to the key of the tonic minor, albeit with gratuitous influence of the Aeolian mode and cadences in the relative major. The melody here is lyrical with a folk-inspired beauty about it. Following a half close, a return of the opening section, stripped of repeats and concluding statement of the first strain, brings to end Dvořák’s Humoresque. Joseph DuBose
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