Journal “Czech Music” Volume 13 (Abstract)
Dvořák and the Basset Horn
by Graham Melville-Mason
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1987), pp. 5 – 8]
The heyday of the basset horn, a form of tenor clarinet, was between about 1777 and 1830. Interest was centred on Vienna and Prague. Popular in Court and Palace Harmonie bands, many Czech players and some composers used the instrument, but it later became a rarity in orchestral scores, Dvořák employed the basset horn just once, in the fourth movement of his Czech Suite, but subsequent performances used the cor anglais rather than the basset horn as originally scored. Research into the autograph score indicates that Dvořák changed his mind and agreed the use of the cor anglais on the pragmatic ground that the basset horn was in scarce supply. The revival of interest in the basset horn in the late twentieth century encourages the belief the work may now be played following the composer’s original intention.
Fact and Fiction about Czech Composers
by John Clapham
[Czech Music: Journal of the Dvořák Society, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1987), pp. 9 – 12]
In recent years there has been a marked increase in plays with music, and in books, offering speculative and romanticised accounts of the lives of great composers, the musical Lilac Time (Schubert), the film Amadeus (Mozart) and Škvorecký’s book Dvořák in Love being examples. In the latter there are numerous errors of fact, including misinterpretations of the relationship between Dvořák and Mrs. Thurber in New York. The book is condemned as cavalier and irresponsible. The Life of Smetana: the Pain and the Glory, by L. Nolan and J.B. Hutton, however, is seen as more punctilious, though the book contains significant omissions. The authors cover the controversies between Smetana and his critics in a restrained manner, and show accuracy and a sense of dedication in creating a remarkable ‘documentary novel’.