Sheet Music Review: Henle’s Dvořák Violin Concerto Op. 53 Includes Supplementary Violin Part Marked by Augustin Hadelich

Dvořák’s Violin Concerto has in more recent times gained the recognition and appreciation it deserves

By Mary Nemet | From the May-June 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) became popular throughout Europe for his sparkling Slavonic and Moravian Dances, with numerous publishers and musicians asking him for more works in the Slavic style. His publisher, Fritz Simrock, had already received the composer’s Romance for violin and small orchestra, Op. 11, but suggested he write a Hungarian or Bohemian fantasy, or better still, “a violin concerto, suitably original, rich in melodies and for good violinists”—no doubt believing this to be a marketable proposition. Dvořák agreed to his publisher’s wish and completed his concerto within two months in the summer of 1879.


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Antonín Dvořák: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53, G. Henle Verlag
Antonín Dvořák: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53, G. Henle Verlag, $27.95

However, Brahms encouraged his friend to send it to Joseph Joachim for critical perusal. This led to Dvořák’s extensive reworkings of the score, which was sent again to Joachim in Berlin, where it remained for two years, untouched. Finally, Dvořák received the emendations, but because of Joachim’s waning interest, he sent the score to Czech violinist František Ondříček, who gave it its premiere in Prague in 1883, with many subsequent performances throughout Europe.

Often overshadowed by his great Cello Concerto, Op. 104, Dvořák’s Violin Concerto has in more recent times gained the recognition and appreciation it deserves. The Allegro ma non troppo opens with a bold, powerful statement and continues in dramatic style with Dvořák’s customary rich harmonies. The gloriously lyrical Adagio is followed by a sparkling finale, inspired by Czech folk dances in rhythmic alternating triple and duple meters. Cellos and oboes imitate bagpipes while a wistful Dumka melody intervenes. For all his fascination with America, Dvořák returned to the “old world” themes of his homeland. 

Henle’s exemplary urtext publication is edited by Peter Jost, with a preface, critical commentary, piano reduction, violin part in clear notation, and additionally, a very helpful supplementary violin part marked by Augustin Hadelich.