Tune of the Day: Humoresque No. 7
During his stay in America, when Dvořák was director of the Conservatory in New York from 1892 to 1895, the composer collected many interesting musical themes in his sketchbooks. He used some of these ideas in his American compositions, notably the “From the New World” Symphony, but some of them remained unused. While in holiday in the summer of 1894 in his beloved home in Bohemia, he worked out some of these sketches into a cycle of 8 piano pieces. Initially, the composer considered naming them “New Scotch Dances” (after an earlier set of Ecossaises he wrote) but eventually settled for the title “Humoresques”.
Of the eight pieces, the seventh is without any doubt the best known; as with all of Dvorák's most successful piano works, it exhibits his talents for rhythmic originality and idiomatic textures that lie gratefully under the fingers. Indeed, the piece quickly became one of the most popular classical pieces in existence, and the publisher made vast amounts of money on it by publishing it separately in arrangements for all imaginable instruments and ensembles.
The original key of the piece is G-flat major (with six flats), but we decided to transpose it up a semitone to G major in order to make it more accessible. Since the piece contains few accidentals, the fussy among us can easily try to play it in the original key by considering a six-flat key signature instead of the printed one. Unfortunately this trick does not work in the minor-mode part, where an enharmonic transposition to F-sharp minor would be needed.