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About this Piece

Composed: 1881

Length: 4 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, timpani, harp, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances

Many of the works by Dvorák heard on this program come from his initial period of international success, when the Prague-born, Vienna-based music critic Eduard Hanslick, the composer Johannes Brahms, and the publisher Fritz Simrock all began to show an interest in his music. A copy of Dvorák's Moravian Duets, Op. 32, had found its way into Brahms' hands, and, impressed by their "piquant charm," he sent them to Simrock, who published them in 1878. The success of the Duets led to several commissions from Simrock, including the two sets of Slavonic Dances and the ten Legends, Op. 59. Dvorák composed the Legends in the winter of 1881 for piano four-hands (two people playing one piano), indicating that Simrock was aiming for the considerable domestic music-making market. At his publisher's request, Dvorák orchestrated the Legends late that fall. The set may have been a sequence of meditations on the lives of saints; according to Dvorák's biographer Otakar Sourek, the composer was possibly inspired by Liszt's Legends for piano on the life of St. Francis. This helps explain the relatively contemplative atmosphere of Dvorák's Legends, something apparent from the outset of Legend No. 10, as strings and winds trade a wistful B-flat-minor theme. Horns, then cellos, shift into the major mode, but the mood remains subdued. Dvorák repeats each of these themes before bringing the piece to a serene close.

- John Mangum is the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association's Program Designer/Annotator.