The sonatina op. 100, written during Dvorák’s stay in the USA in 1893, is dedicated to his six children. On January 2, 1894, the composer wrote to his publisher Simrock: “Thank God, I am healthy and well, having just completed my 100th work, a sonatina for violin and piano.
It is intended for the youth (dedicated to my children), but grown-ups, adults, shall enjoy themselves with it as they see fit.”
It was the last chamber composition he wrote during his sojourn in the United States. Dvořák catered the sonatina to the gradually developing musical abilities of his children, especially those of his 15-year-old daughter Otilie and 10-year-old son Toník, who played piano and violin respectively.
Inspired by the fascinating landscape of Northern America and by meetings with the native Indian inhabitants, a wealth of impressions has found its way into the movements of this sonatina. And that, accordingly, makes it a part of the teaching canon that is not only useful, but also very attractive.
The sonatina was published by Simrock in Berlin in 1894. It also exists in a version for cello and piano.
The four short movements of the sonatina each exhibit a simple and clear, formal structure (hence the diminutive, cf. sonata). They all contain themes, which, like those already found in his other American chamber works (the String Quartet in F and the String Quintet in E♭), owe their inspiration to Indian melodies and Negro spirituals, which are characterized by pentatonic scales and syncopated rhythm, among other traits. The mood of the composition is fresh and joyful. Only the second movement and part of the last movement are nostalgic; they are inspired by the composer’s longing for his home country.
A motive for the slow movement Larghetto was hurriedly noted down on Dvořák’s shirt sleeve while on a visit to Minnehaha Falls, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Simrock sold this movement separately, without the composer’s permission, and Fritz Kreisler often performed it as Indian Lament. It also appeared as Indian Canzonetta; such romantic titles were not the composer’s, but were added subsequently by publishers.
Dvorak – Sonatina for Violin and Piano Op. 100
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