Antonín Dvořák (Czech, 1841-1904): Quartet in F Major, "American," mvt. 1
From 1892-1895, Dvořák lived in the U.S., primarily employed as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. He spent the summer of 1893, however, among the Czech community in Spillville, Iowa, which is where the "American" quartet was composed. (Willa Cather's novel "My Ántonia" takes place in a similar community in Nebraska.) In America, as back in his home country, he took great interest in the folk idioms of the local cultures. Particularly, he believed that the traditions of African American and Native American music could help develop a unique "American music" sound. The themes and melodies in the "American" quartet are not derived from any specific folk tunes, but they use similar figures and harmonies that are meant to reflect the spirit of these styles.
As always, in string quartet music, watch/listen to how material is passed around the quartet. This movement in particular has good stuff for everyone!
New York Philharmonic String Quartet
For those interested, here's something COMPLETELY different: a recording by Czech musicians in 1928! It it fascinating, and useful, to know something a bit closer to the sound Dvorak might have had in his ear while composing.
Czech String Quartet
In May 2017 I challenged my students to practice every day for 30 days in a row. In addition, I asked them to listen to 30 bite-sized musical selections I emailed daily. I collected my picks in this blog for posterity. So these are works I find particularly fun, interesting, or important, including a handful by composers who were born or who died in May. Please enjoy!