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About this Piece


Full title:
Romance in F minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 11


Length: 12 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings, and solo violin

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: March 27, 1980, Riccardo Chailly conducting, with violinist Pinchas Zukerman

This moonstruck miniature has its roots in the F-minor String Quartet, Op. 9, which the composer sweated over in 1873 and, after a single performance, deemed unfit for publication. Yet its slow movement was likely the most originally Czech - least Lisztian and Wagnerian - music he had created to that time, a quality seized upon by the publisher Simrock, who agreed with the composer's sour judgment of the totality. Simrock suggested that Antonín Dvorák arrange the quartet's slow movement for solo violin and small orchestra, which the composer did in 1877.

"The Romance," in the words of Otakar Sourek, Dvorák scholar par excellence, "begins with a delicate orchestral introduction developed canonically from the principal theme of the quartet movement… There follows the movement proper, which reproduces the opening bars of the quartet movement. After a short transitional passage, an altogether new and beautifully vocal theme makes its entry in the key of E major, recalling… at least in its scheme of modulations, the composer's Wagnerian fever of a phase successfully outgrown. The whole exposition concludes with a new, softly insinuating final theme, as delicate as it is charming."

According to Chalifour, "It's quite a change going from the difficulties Beethoven creates to the performer-friendly elegance of the Dvorák Romance. With Beethoven you have to work to make the music - which, by the way, lies very high in the Allegro - project and make it comfortable for your hands. You have to keep in mind that Beethoven was only an occasional violinist while Dvorák was a professional player. You can feel it in the way his melodies emerge so naturally from the instrument."

-- Herbert Glass is the English-language annotator for the Salzburg Festival and a contributor to music periodicals in the U.S. and Europe.