March 2013

Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major

by Antonín Dvořák

We talked about Antonín Dvořák back in April 2009. He was a Czech composer (born 1841, died 1904).

In the summer of 1894, Dvořák wrote a collection of "humoresques" (pronounced HEW-more-ESKS) for piano. A "humoresque" was a popular style in the late 1800s. It meant that the piece was happy or funny (humorous). The collection that he wrote contains eight short pieces. It's the seventh piece that we'll be listening to today.

The seventh humoresque is marked poco lento e grazioso, which means "a little slow and graceful". It was written in a major key, so it has a happy sound to it. But it does have a section in the middle that changes to a minor key, and sounds a little sad. But then it goes right back to a happy major.

As I mentioned, this was originally written for piano, but when the publisher saw how popular the seventh humoresque was, arrangements for violin and other instruments were made as well.

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

I have no idea when I first heard this piece. This is frequently found in cartoons, TV & movies, so I likely heard it there first. I don't remember a time when I didn't know it.


Here's Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major by Antonín Dvořák. Enjoy!

Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major by Antonín Dvořák (3:49)

For those interested, this recording was performed by the famous violinist Isaac Stern (1920-2001) accompanied by Milton Katims conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra.

Jon's Interpretation:

To me, this is one of those cute little classical pieces that everyone knows, but no one knows the name of it or who wrote it. I have a real affinity for finding pieces like this. I like to be able to call on them by name.

There's a real happy and pastoral feeling about this piece. You can almost picture walking through a meadow, or through a field on a farm, or wherever you feel happy. It also reminds me of someone taking some time to just think.

Extra Credit:

Where we can, I always like to include a score, so here's the piano score to Humoresque No. 7:

Piano Score for Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major by Antonín Dvořák

I also have another recording of the Humoresque. It's, again, by a violinist. Here is the famous violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) performing with Franz Rupp at the piano.

Fritz Kreisler performing Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major by Antonín Dvořák (3:44)

As an added bonus, I came across a funny story about the Humoresque. Sometime in the 1930s, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and Yale law school professor Thurman Arnold were riding the New Haven Railroad and noticed a sign in the train's bathroom. They decided to set the sign's words to the music of Humoresque No. 7. The words in parentheses were added by the two (they weren't on the sign):

Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station (I love you)...