Dvorák, String Quintet in G Major, Op. 77 (Scherzo)
It was described as irresistible on the one hand, and roundly criticized on the other. Dvorák’s String Quintet, Op. 77 has generated some conflicts. It is a relatively early work written in 1875. Dvorák (1841-1904) considered it his opus 18, but it was not published until 1888. The publisher slapped Opus 77 on it, the next number in the publishing sequence, suggesting that it was a much more mature work. This may have contributed to the harsh reviews.
One critic noted its “utter lack of melodic charm” and ranked it “among Dvorák’s least successful works.” Another, while agreeing that the work as a whole was undistinguished, nevertheless considered the scherzo movement “irresistible.”
This scherzo follows the traditional form in its broad outline: a binary main section followed by a trio (at 2:57) and return to the main section. (See the discussion of the scherzo form in a previous post.) But within that larger scheme, Dvorák has expanded the individual sections, writing out some of the repeats with variations and adding transitions and development sections.
I think this work’s irresistibility, if that’s what it is, comes from the folk melodies, harmonies, and rhythms that so often characterize Dvorák’s music. It’s difficult not to picture the Czech countryside—or more notably, the rivers flowing through the countriside—when listening to his music. If you get the chance to take a river cruise on the Vltava (Moldau), be sure to take Dvorák along for the ride.