Dvořák's Czech Suite in D major: a tribute to Bohemian folk dance

Antonín Dvořák

The world-famous Czech composer Antonín Dvořák died 120 years ago in Prague on May 1, 1904, at the age of 62. The 120th anniversary of his death is naturally being commemorated with a host of concerts, but also by us here at Radio Prague International. In today’s Sunday music show we listen to his truly lovely Czech Suite in D major from 1879.

The Czech Suite in D major is a prime example of Dvořák’s melodic talent. After the success of his Serenades for Strings and for Wind Instruments, he originally wanted to compose another serenade. However, he changed his plans and instead decided to compose a suite based on Czech folk dances.

Antonín Dvořák in 1868  | Photo: public domain

The Suite in D Major premiered on 16 May 1879 in Prague at a concert conducted by Adolf Čech. One year later Dvořák himself conducted the piece at a charity concert raising money for the construction of the National Theatre in Prague.

The suite consists of five movements. The first movement, the Prelude, is a lyrical introduction to the following folk dances. The second movement, the Polka, is a poetic stylisation of this traditional Czech folk dance, followed by the Sousedská in the third movement, a semi-slow dance in three quarter time with a calm, swaying character, usually danced in pairs. The theme of the fourth movement, the Romance, is introduced by flutes and strings, then little by little, the brass instruments begin playing. A spirited Furiant, a fast and fiery folk dance in three-four time with frequently shifting accents, closes the suite in the Finale, the fifth movement.

Have a listen for yourself to this rendition of the suite performed by the Czech Philharmonic and conducted by Václav Neumann.

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