Antonín Dvořák wrote two sets of eight Slavonic Dances, one in 1878 (Op. 46) and one in 1886 (Op. 72). They were inspired by Johannes Brahms’ set of Hungarian Dances, which music lovers throughout Europe and abroad adored because they were originally for piano for four hands, a common form of home entertainment in the 19th century.
Dvořák originally composed both sets of his Slavonic Dances for piano for four hands, as well, and they also made Dvořák a household name, as well as a considerable amount of income.
With the advent of the radio, however, this lovely tradition of playing piano at home died away, and so did the compositions that were written in this format. However, we still know these wonderful sets of miniatures in their orchestral versions. And Dvořák’s orchestrations of his dances are truly wonderful.
It is interesting, though, that as popular as complete performances have been on record, only a few of these dances are played in concert and usually they are now reserved for the rare encore. It’s a shame that they have been sidelined due to what amounts to unimaginative programming, but there is a long list of music in this rather lamentable category.
One of my favorite recordings is with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. I can’t seem to find any evidence of it on YouTube, unfortunately, but one can still find it on cd. There are, however, other favorite recordings of mine that I did find! Enjoy!