Prague’s Dvořák Museum showcases valuable manuscript

Dvořák's musical manuscript

A new exhibition marking the inclusion of Antonín Dvořák’s Archive on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register got underway this week. Among other thing, visitors to the Dvořák Museum in Prague will have a rare chance to see a manuscript of his Moravian Duets, which paved the composer’s way to world-wide fame.

The Moravian Duets, a cycle of 23 compositions for two voices and piano based on Moravian folk-song lyrics, were written by Dvořák between 1876 and 1885. According to Emanuele Gadaleta, head of the Dvořák Museum in Prague, the opus contributed significantly to the success of the composer’s work abroad.

“It is a key composition that paved his way to fame. Dvořák has beautiful handwriting, so the sheet music is very beautiful. What fascinates me is the architecture behind the notes. To imagine the concept the composer had in his head and the melodies and symphonies that are behind the dots is something truly fascinating.”

In the mid-1870s when Dvořák was not yet a well-known composer, he worked as a music teacher for the family of Jan Neff, a wealthy wholesale merchant, philanthropist and music enthusiast.

It was at Neff’s request that Dvořák began to arrange the first Moravian Duets, using the collection of Moravian National Songs as the source for the arrangements.

Dvořák, however, did not content himself only with the musical arrangement of the folk melodies; he also began to compose entirely new music to accompany the lyrics of the folk songs.

Now, for the first time ever, visitors to the Dvořák Museum in Prague can see the original manuscript to the Moravian Duets. The music sheets are part of an exhibition called Antonín Dvořák: My Life and Work, which celebrates the inclusion of the Czech composer’s archive on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register earlier this year.

Along with Janáček, Dvořák is the only Czech composer whose archive has been added on the prestigious list, which aims to safeguard the most important documentary heritage of humanity.

The archive contains his musical manuscripts, letters, books and personal documents, but also first editions of Dvořák’s compositions, diplomas and honorary memberships.

Starting with the Moravian Duets, the Museum of Antonín Dvořák will gradually display 12 of Dvořák’s original manuscripts. Each of them will showcased for a duration of one month. Next up will be the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor.

Alongside the Moravian Duets, visitors to the Dvořák Museum can see a number of other items from his collection. They include some personal items related to the composer’s guilty pleasures: an ashtray, a set of playing cards and a cigar holder Dvořák got as a present from Johannes Brahms.

Author: Ruth Fraňková; Michaela Vetešková
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