DVOŘÁK Antonin, String Quintet No.2 in G, Op.77

Scored for the unusual combination of string quartet and double bass, Dvořák’s String Quintet in G major was first performed on 18 March 1876 as the composer’s Op.18 – a number that was changed when the work was first published by Simrock twelve years later in 1888. Originally the work had five movements (with an ‘Intermezzo’ before the Scherzo, reworked as the Nocturne in B major for string orchestra), and despite the published opus number, it is one of the composer’s first chamber works to be fully characteristic of his mature style. The first movement opens with a motif played first by the viola (Dvořák’s own instrument) that dominates much of the musical argument – the triplet figure in it is to be heard in the second theme too. The Scherzo finds Dvořák writing in the style of a folk dance, the opening theme consists of a lively opening motif that contrasts with a gentler idea over which Dvořák later introduces a warmly expressive new tune. The third movement has been described by the great Dvořák scholar Otakar Šourek as ‘one of the most entrancing slow movements in the whole of Dvořák’s chamber music … a flowing stream of passionate warmth [and] depth of feeling’. The finale has the same kind of sunny mood as the first movement, but with an even greater sense of joyful energy. Though there are moments of repose (during which the thematic material is treated to some ingenious transformations), the work ends with what Dvořák’s biographer Otakar Šourek aptly described as ‘high-spirited verve’.  


© Nigel Simeone 


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