Dvořák – Romance in F-Minor, Op. 11 for Violin and Orchestra

by Max Derrickson

Antonin Dvořák   (Born in 1841 near Prague, Bohemia (nowCzech Republic); died in1904 in Prague)


Romance in F-Minor, Op. 11 for Violin and Orchestra


[. . .] Dvorák was also a dedicated composer of chamber works, and it is a never-ceasing delight to hear his efforts in these realms – so many of these rank as masterpieces of the 19th Century, including his exquisite Serenade for Winds, D-minor, and his “American” String Quartet.  And then there is the Romance in F-minor, one of the great character pieces of that Century.


Dvorák’s Romance of 1877 is reworked from the Andantino movement of the 1873 String Quartet No. 5 in F minor.  The original quartet is lovely enough, but at the time it couldn’t seem to satisfy the composer’s aesthetics.  Dvorák was always stretching his approach to composing – it began with modeling his works much after Beethoven, then a shift to the wandering harmonic language of Wagner, to, lastly, a more open approach to Czech folk music and the Classic-Romantic style of Brahms (a kind of rekindling of the music of Mozart and Beethoven, with a more modern harmonic sensibility).  The Quartet No. 5 had fallen into this transitional stage between the Wagnerian and Brahmsian, and had left Dvorák a little undone, and so he abandoned it, all except for the delightful Andantino.  Reworked as the Romance, it became the kind of piece for Dvorák that would completely inform his later works, notably, the slow movement in his New World Symphony (1893), and bears an honesty of expression over richly glowing harmonies.


The Romance as a compositional form shares its roots with the ballad [ . . .]


The Romance in F minor is one of those bright stars of a piece – an expression of ineffable quality that one can’t quite explain why it so beckons the heart, or how it so deeply affects the soul.  Certainly, the harmonies Dvorák uses at the end of phrases, those tender turns unexpected, have much to do with this – the lyricism of the tunes, the gentle-natured coloring and the soaring moments that break upon us like sunrises – but in essence one cannot explain how Dvorák seemed to hit all those marks just so, in such a way that steals our hearts.


The Romance begins with a longing and nostalgic introduction in the orchestra [. . .]