Antonin Dvorak (1841 - 1904) String Quartet No. 12 op 96 “American” (1893) 1  Allegro ma non troppo Lento 3  Molto vivace 4  Vivace ma non troppo The title “American” was not Dvorak’s, it is not in the score and it is difficult to see exactly what is essentially American about the piece. Why this name came to be used is not clear.  However, it does reflect the simplicity of the musical ideas, the effortless flow of the music and the wide range of feelings common to Dvorak’s music at that time; the 9 th  Symphony and the string quintet. The use of a pentatonic scale for the themes in the first and second movements was a technique Dvorak had used throughout his life and the cross rhythms and dance like qualities of the 3 rd  and 4 th  movements are also a feature of his musical style, rooted in his Czech homeland.  The use of a birdsong call (scarlet tanager), common where he was living while he wrote the quartet in the third movement, is certainly American and the comment he put at the end of the 1 st  movement in the manuscript score, “How beautifully the sun shines,” sums up the outdoor atmosphere of the whole work. The first movement opens with hushed rustling before the main theme is announced simply on the viola.  The second theme, also pentatonic, is quiet and meditative.  These ideas are then developed through to the end of the movement. The second movement is the heart of the quartet.  It uses an eight bar melody but the rocking accompaniment and idiomatic writing for violins and cello turn a simple structure and into a beautifully shaped and moving movement. The third movement is quite simple in structure using accents across the beat in a typically Dvorakian way.  And the final movement is a lively dance that ensures everyone leaves in a jaunty mood with one’s head swimming with sunny melody.
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Antonin Dvorak (1841 - 1904) String Quartet No. 12 op 96 “American” (1893) 1  Allegro ma non troppo Lento 3  Molto vivace 4  Vivace ma non troppo The title “American” was not Dvorak’s, it is not in the score and it is difficult to see exactly what is essentially American about the piece. Why this name came to be used is not clear.  However, it does reflect the simplicity of the musical ideas, the effortless flow of the music and the wide range of feelings common to Dvorak’s music at that time; the 9 th  Symphony and the string quintet. The use of a pentatonic scale for the themes in the first and second movements was a technique Dvorak had used throughout his life and the cross rhythms and dance like qualities of the 3 rd  and 4 th  movements are also a feature of his musical style, rooted in his Czech homeland.  The use of a birdsong call (scarlet tanager), common where he was living while he wrote the quartet in the third movement, is certainly American and the comment he put at the end of the 1 st  movement in the manuscript score, “How beautifully the sun shines,” sums up the outdoor atmosphere of the whole work. The first movement opens with hushed rustling before the main theme is announced simply on the viola.  The second theme, also pentatonic, is quiet and meditative.  These ideas are then developed through to the end of the movement. The second movement is the heart of the quartet.  It uses an eight bar melody but the rocking accompaniment and idiomatic writing for violins and cello turn a simple structure and into a beautifully shaped and moving movement. The third movement is quite simple in structure using accents across the beat in a typically Dvorakian way.  And the final movement is a lively dance that ensures everyone leaves in a jaunty mood with one’s head swimming with sunny melody.