Since I wrote last time about my foolish childhood attempt to connect my Lithuanian ancestors to the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), I thought I would now share some Dvořák listening suggestions.
- It is perhaps played too often by American orchestras, but classical neophytes should still give a listen to Dvořák’s most famous composition, Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World,” op. 95). But, especially if you can read music a little bit, I suggest reading a chapter in Leonard Bernstein’s “The Infinite Variety of Music” where he shows how Dvořák’s 9th symphony is indeed great but musically more old world than new world.
- For some delightful Dvořák of a smaller size, I recommend Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená’s recording of his Love Songs (Písne Milostné, op. 83) for voice and piano.
- The stirring String Quintet in G major (op. 77) adds a double bass to the typical quartet of two violins, viola and cello.
- Originally a movement of the aforementioned string quintet, the Nocturne for String Orchestra (op. 40) is a short contemplative work with an uplifting swell in its middle section.
- Dvořák’s most successful opera, Rusalka, is about a naiad who falls in love with a human. If you’re not ready yet to watch or listen to the whole thing, you can dip your toes into its magic waters with its most famous aria, Rusalka’s song to the moon (Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém).
Whether you’re a Dvořák dabbler or a serious scholar, feel free to share your favorites.