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A Walk Down memory lane with Dvorak

My first association to Dvorak is the composer’s New World Symphony without consciousness of his precious 2 “Pearls” for piano solo. These double your pleasure treasures derive from the collection, Young Czech Pianist, published in Prague by Urbanek with Dvorak describing them as “undemanding works aimed at children.” (The autograph went missing for many years but was rediscovered at the beginning of the 21st century.)

Such an underestimation of the skill needed for adequate “pearl-like” musical and technical immersion, is reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s endeavor in his Op. 39 Children’s Pieces; alongside Schumann’s Album for the Young Op. 68, and Kabalevsky’s analagous Op. 39. (Add in Bartok and Shostakovich tableaux for the young pianist.) If the designation “children’s pieces” deems these collections as intrinsic to a beginning piano student’s journey, then teachers and students need to be a bit more circumspect. (Perhaps the titles that are evocative of childhood give credence to their overall description without focusing on their individual challenges for the developing pianist)

Virtuosos Pletnev and Lisitsa, for example, among others, have recorded Tchaikovsky’s Children’s pieces collection, (Op. 39) while Dvorak’s two pearls seem to have been given short shrift. It could be that the so-called 2 “miniatures” of Dvorak are not part of a substantial body of work as is associated with Tchaikovsky’s Op. 39, or that of Schumann. (Op. 68) Note that both bodies of work contain pieces with varying degrees of difficulty, not specifically progressing in order of complexity. This speaks to why “leveling” such collections have little validity.

Finally, given the relative obscurity of Dvorak’s Pearls, my Online student in Scotland one day excavated them from ISMLP: “Da Kola! In a Ring!” B. 156 followed by the more lyrical, “Grandpa Dances with Grandma.” (No. 2)

Without doubt, the music speaks for itself with its engaging melodies, and interspersed, catchy rhythms.

“Da Kola! In a Ring!” (No. 1) sparkles with embullient folkloric energy and syncopated accents while Grandpa and Grandma in No. 2, dance intimately to a mellifluous opening, followed by an interlude with engaging dotted-8th/sixteenth rhythms, before a lyrical return.

Such gorgeous music wells up with Czech homeland emotion as we’d expect from the composer!

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