Dvořák – Sextet in A major / Miniatures


The miniatures on this record is a piece composed for a highly unusual combination of instruments. Dvořák and his family was living in the house of his mother-in-law. She had rented out a room to a young chemistry student with the surprisingly Dutch sounding name of Josef Kruis. This Kruis was an amateur violinist, who studied the violin with a player of the orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague. Dvořák played viola, so he though maybe they could play together, if he wrote something for the combination.

So he wrote the Terzetto in C major, opus 74. The piece turned out to be too difficult for Kruis however, so Dvořák had to dumb it up a bit. The result was this, and he called the piece Miniatures. In a letter to his publisher he wrote:

I am writing little miniatures – just imagine – for two violins and viola, and I enjoy the work as much as if I were writing a large symphony – what do you say to that? Of course, they are meant rather for amateurs, but didn’t Beethoven and Schumann also express themselves sometimes with quite simple means – and how?…

In fact, he liked it so much that he immediately decided to create a version with piano for it. That would sell better, I suppose. It was published as opus 75, all in 1887. The Miniatures were not published until 1945, as opus 75A.

The fourth part of the opus 75 is included in the soundtrack of Civilization V, my favourite computer game.

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