Without a doubt, Dvořák’s melodious cello concerto numbers among the most popular of its kind. It is hard to imagine that the Musical Times harboured little hope that it would remain in the repertoire after the London premiere! Written in the winter of 1894/95 while the composer was still in America, the work underwent several revisions, particularly in the solo part, in the spring and summer of 1895 following Dvořák’s return to Bohemia. His cellist friend Hanuš Wihan provided expert support, even making his own entries in Dvořák’s autograph manuscript.
The vast number of small and larger revisions ultimately led to some confusion during print setting, resulting in Simrock’s 1896 first edition of the score, piano reduction, and solo parts displaying numerous inconsistencies. These were carefully examined for this Henle Urtext edition while referring back to the autograph sources and an early copy of the solo part. Thus, not only the substantiated Urtext solo part, but also the piano reduction prepared by Johannes Umbreit now offer an optimal working basis for all musicians.
The outstanding cellist Steven Isserlis offers much more than just fingering and bowing instructions in the marked-up part: in a short introduction he also describes his own musical experiences with the work. Moreover, in footnotes to the musical text he draws attention to some early variants, and presents his suggestions for resolving classic problem passages based on his own practice as a performer.
- Violoncello Concerto b minor op. 104
Antonín Dvořák (1841 – 1904) composed his Cello Concerto in b minor op. 104 in the winter of 1894/95, at the end of his two-and-a-half-year residence in America. Thanks to the composer’s detailed correspondence with his family and friends back in his Bohemian homeland, we have very precise information about the work’s genesis. A letter to his family of 2 November 1894 … more
About the composer
With Smetana he is the most famous Czech composer of the nineteenth century, contributing to the dissemination and appreciation of Czech music throughout the world. Among his around 200 works, encompassing all standard genres, are nine symphonies, fourteen string quartets, and twelve operas.
|1841||Born in Nelahozeves (Mühlhausen) on the Vltava River on September 8, the son of a butcher and innkeeper.|
|1853||Attends the training school in Zlonice; there he receives a comprehensive musical education from Josef Toman and the cantor Antonín Liehmann; subsequent education in Česká Kamenice (1856–57).|
|1857–59||Studies at the organ school in Prague. Until 1871 he will earn his living as a music teacher, organist, and violist.|
|1861||String Quintet No. 1 in A minor, considered his first work.|
|1862||Position as solo violist in the orchestra of the Bohemian Provisional Theater (conducted by Smetana, among others)|
|1873||Breakthrough with the premiere in Prague of his patriotic hymn “The Heirs of the White Mountain,” Op. 30. Employment at the private Prague School of Music. Several state scholarships.|
|1874–77||Organist at St. Adalbert church.|
|from 1876||“Moravian Duets,” Opp. 20, 29, 32, and 38 (1876–77), “Slavonic Rhapsodies,” Op. 45 and the first series of “Slavonic Dances,” Op. 46 (both from 1878) enjoy great success. His fame abroad grows.|
|1882||Premiere of the opera “Dimitrij”, in the tradition of grand opera.|
|1884||First invitation to England, after which eight more will follow.|
|1886||Premiere of his oratorio “Saint Ludmila,” Op. 71.|
|1891||Professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory.|
|1891–95||Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York.|
|1893||Premiere in New York of Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” Op. 95 (American folkloric elements, cyclic techniques).|
|1901||Premiere in Prague of his most famous opera, “Rusalka.”|
|1904||Premiere in Prague of his last opera, “Armida.” Death in Prague on May 1.|