DVORAK : Romance in Fminor, Op. 11

January 6, 2013 at 05:48 PM · I've always loved this piece; especially Perlman's interpretation. I ordered the music and started looking at it the other day. It doesn't sound overly difficult, but it is about the toughest piece I have ever worked on. Has anyone else played it? Is this a really hard piece or am I just over the hill? I couldn't find a recording of Perlman on youtube, but here is a pretty nice interpretation. The violin solo starts at 1:02.

Replies (73)

January 6, 2013 at 05:51 PM · Hi Smiley,

I love this piece, too, and a few years ago I decided to learn it, and it did take some study. I believe it's the key that makes it tricky. It helps to find a few good fingerings here and there! Let me know if you have some specific places and I'll dig out my music..


January 6, 2013 at 08:37 PM · I also just started looking at it a week ago!

The first part was OK. There is a Sassmannshaus violin masterclass video on the solo opening that got me interested.

January 7, 2013 at 01:31 AM · What are you finding difficult about it?

If it's the key, scales, arpeggios, or other intonation-oriented exercises will help you a lot. I like #255 out of Simon Fischer's "Basics", which takes you through finger patterns in a key; do it in A-flat major to orient yourself, as a warm-up before working on the piece.

January 7, 2013 at 04:29 AM · Hi Lydia,

Seems like there are key changes every few measures so it is difficult to hear the notes in your head before you play them. And most of it has to be played in awkward positions -- 2nd position, 4th position, half position, everything EXCEPT 1st and 3rd position. And with all the accidentals, the finger spacings keep changing. As Laurie pointed out, F Minor is not exactly the most natural key for the violin.

My scanner isn't working for some reason, but when I get it working, I'll try to post snippets of some of the difficult sections.

January 7, 2013 at 05:05 AM · Here's a section that I'm struggling with:

January 7, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Smiley - its a stinker - and equally gorgeous so I pick it up every now and then and then after realizing the most easy passage is actually unplayable put it right back again....

And you thought the chaconne was hard huh? :D

January 7, 2013 at 01:43 PM · Hi Smiley -

I don't know if this makes you feel any better, but the viola translation is a killer also.

---Ann Marie

January 7, 2013 at 03:24 PM · I think the best approach to mastering a tricky passage such as the one Smiley has high-lighted (bars 81 et seq) is to work on it section by section, first analyzing for the appropriate fingering, shifts and bowing, and looping the section about a dozen times at a very slow pace (about half-speed or even slower, using a metronome as a control) until it is as good as you can get (only then are you allowed to increase the speed!). A tip, be generous with the bowing, even in the quietest bits, it's the best way to get tone and project it, and it gives you confidence. Then apply the process to the next section, and so on. Finally, stitch them together. It is a slow process (which I think accounts for most of the many hours the top players spend in the practice studio) and demands time, patience and concentration, but it is one method, perhaps the only one, that is guaranteed to work. Another bonus of this type of practice is that it embeds the music in your memory.

For example, in bar 81 and the first note of bar 82 the first thing I notice is that it can all be done in one position. Take advantage of this and look out for similar situations elsewhere in the piece - they are there - and this will cut down some of the work.

Dvorak likes his enharmonic changes, so a high Gb on the E isn't quite so alarming when you realize it is F# and only one note above the E-harmonic. The intonation of the opening of the piece is likewise a little easier to control, and appropriate fingering worked out, if you apply a little enharmonic re-writing for practice purposes. I also think a generally good approach to a lot of enharmonic writing is to play it by ear and ignore confusing notation.

Learning a piece like this can benefit from listening to a violin and piano version - you can hear the violinist clearly enough to be able to work out most of the fingering, shifting and string changes without the distraction of an orchestra. Such a version I like is on Volume 1 of Dvorak's Music for Violin and Piano played by Qian Zhou (violin) and Edmund Battersby (piano), Naxos 8.554413. Dvorak's Romance Op 11 is the first track; other pieces are the Sonata in F Op 57, Four Romantic Pieces Op 75 and the Sonatina in G Op 100.

January 7, 2013 at 05:00 PM · Found my music, copied my fingering for you...

January 7, 2013 at 05:10 PM · Dvorak's Romance is tricky, but a little bit easier than its evil twin, Chausson's Poeme (they both have similar issues).

Lydia's excerpt above has slurs that my Gingold edition lacks. In fact, in bars 81-82, Gingold (or someone) has used dots, as if to suggest that the runs are to be played off the string. I just play them detache.

My suggestion for this piece comes down to this:

a. break up the slurs as you need to

b. take some bowings with a grain of salt and dispense with them if you have to. For example, in bar 93, the Gingold edition has up-bow staccato indicated. Again, if you can't comfortably do it, just play them separate. It's not a Paganini Caprice where one is expected to do certain virtuoso bowings. The line and drama are more important.

As you dig into this work, you may find that, save for just a couple of spots, it actually lies very well on the fiddle

January 7, 2013 at 05:16 PM · (Oops, forgot to erase a fingering -- bar 89 should start with a 2.)

By the way, you will want to break up the bowing here, I would expect (when I learned this, my teacher suggested a very different bowing from what you have here). You may also find that another edition proves to be a better baseline -- I have the International (which is edited by Gingold).

You may find it useful to hum, or at least sing in your head, a fragment, before then trying to play the fragment, if you have difficulty anticipating what the next note sounds like. Or plunk it out on a piano, if you have one. You want it secure in your head before you try it on the instrument.

January 7, 2013 at 06:29 PM · The real problem with passages such as this is actually being able to mentally hear what the notes sound like. A way to develop this is to take a short section (for instance the first 2 measures) and (slowly) play each note with just the first finger, then with only the 2nd finger, and so on until you run out of fingers. You won't be able to do this if you are playing the passage only relying on fingerings. this also teaches you how to adjust.

January 7, 2013 at 09:50 PM · You know, this initially modulates to F# minor (melodic minor that is).

The first line is chords based on F#min the final one being F#min6.

This suggests certain fingerings.

January 7, 2013 at 10:34 PM · Bravo, Bruce! You hit the nail on the head, as usual. I'm going to try that one finger technique ASAP

January 7, 2013 at 11:37 PM · Bruce is dead on. Not only are the notes difficult, but they are not intuitive. In fact, I have found that in several passages, when I hit the right note, it sounds wrong. If you don't know what the note should sound like, it sure is hard to hit it.

One example is the C# in the last half of measure 86. No matter how many times I play it, I can't get it into my head, so I have to rely on my hand position to find the note. But as we all know, that is not going to be very accurate.

Lydia, thanks for the fingering suggestions, I will give them a try. That should help with the C# I mentioned above. Finding the note in 3rd position sure will be easier than finding it in 4th position.

January 8, 2013 at 03:13 AM · Ann Marie,

Are you saying you can play it on viola? If so, take off your socks and shoes, because I'll kiss your feet. :-)

January 8, 2013 at 05:01 AM · Part of the problem that you were having with the C#, Smiley, was probably also related to the distance of the shift -- from 1st to 4th position as a single jump in the middle of a run. If you keep your original fingering instead of using mine, you might think of the frame of the hand as based on a 3-to-3 shift with the 3rd "ghosting" the 4th-position D, so that you drop the 2 of the C# with that as a reference point for your hand.

January 8, 2013 at 05:09 PM · Hi Smiley -

I'm WORKING on it on the viola. And it's killing me. Which is why I have been eagerly reading this thread.

---Ann Marie

January 8, 2013 at 05:32 PM · Hi Smiley, to get such passages in your ear you have to hear the main chord notes first and see how the other notes fit in and around the main chords.

It helps to identify what you're listening for.

For your run at m86, play an F# minor arpeggio over and over until it's in your ear; then see how the non-chord notes fit around the chord notes.

On each 8th-pulse listen for the chord notes: F#(root)-A(third)-C#(fifth)

1st (8th-pulse): chord note = A

2nd pulse: chord notes = F# & C#; passing note = G#

3rd pulse: chord note = A; double neighbour notes G# & B

4th pulse: chord note = A; lower neighbour note = G#; upper neighbour note = B

5th pulse: chord note = C#; double neighbour notes = B# & D

6th pulse: chord note = F#; double neighbour notes = E# & G#

It also helps to practice arpeggios in their inversions:

root position = F#AC#

1st inversion = AC#F#

2nd inversion = F#AC#

So m86 is an F# min. arpeggio with a bunch of notes in and around it; the non-chord notes are from the F# harmonic minor scale (raised 7th degree) but finish with a double harmonic minor scale (or Hungarian minor: raised 4th and 7th degrees) so it'll help to play those scales as well.

Once your brain has uploaded those sounds, then you'll be able to organize how your arm shifts and how your fingers feel the interval patterns they need in order to prepare for the next pattern during a shift. E.g. using your fingering: it'll help to contract the hand as you finish the 4th 8th-pulse, i.e. as you place 4th finger (f4) on the B, feel F## and G# with f1 and f2 so they are prepared for the pattern on the 5th pulse (B#^C#^D); similarly, while you finish the 5th pulse (D^C#/F3^F2) feel a D# with f3 to prepare for the final pattern on the 6th pulse (F#^E#-G#)

It always helps to practice position shifts (or whole arm shifts) especially when they are intermediate shifts in a fast run (since you can only 'cheat' your arm position on the final note of a run.) But for speed (and/or flow) I'd also practice what I call 'through shifts', where the lower finger extends and slides through the higher finger or vice-versa. E.g. 4th to 5th pulse: the position shift is from A to D on f3, 1st to 4th position, as Lydia mentioned. But also practice 'replacing' A/f3 with A/f2; then add a slight arm shift as you push f2(G#) through A/f3 and shift to B/f2, 3rd position; finally shift the arm to 4th position as you feel f2(G#) shift through A/f3 and land on C#/f2, 4th position. In addition to position shifts on the old finger (A to D on f3) it also helps to practice position shifts on the new finger (G# to C# on f2). Another way to think of this is to practice 'classical' shifts on the old finger, and 'romantic' shifts on the new finger.

Once you've decided on your fingering, practicing arpeggios, then scales, based on the chosen fingering for a particular passage will help you both hear and feel what you need for that passage.

Hope it helps.

January 8, 2013 at 11:25 PM · Elise wrote:

"And you thought the chaconne was hard huh? :D"

The difference is, I knew the chaconne was hard, so I was mentally prepared. I thought this would be easy, so it seems doubly hard.


I am going to sign up for a music theory class so I can understand what you wrote.

This is starting to look like another long term project :-)

January 9, 2013 at 12:53 AM · I haven't ever looked at this whole thing, so I'm saying this out of context, but couldn't you just play measure 86 in 4th position? Is there any compelling artistic reason you need to shift in the middle of the run? (i'm not being snarky, I actually don't know if there needs to be a shift there or not) I don't know, I don't have the whole thing in front of me, but it seems easier to get up there and stay up there.

January 9, 2013 at 01:39 AM · Eugenia,

That won't work because if you play the run in 4th position, you get awkward string crossings (from the B natural to A natural). You have to go back and forth between the E string and A string several times. In a fast run, shifts are a lot easier and cleaner than string crossings.

January 9, 2013 at 02:21 AM · Hey Smiley, no need to take a course... there's so much free info online now. Start with the site I linked to. Everything's flash based and a lot of it has audio. Check out the lesson on chords. The bullet points are 'clickable' and the info is shown on the staff and keyboard. If a speaker icon appears you can click it to play the example.

In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions. Sorry it didn't make any sense... :P

Edit: it just occurred to me I have no idea what :P actually means. Having looked it up, I rather meant something like :$ or :[ or a mixture of the two.

January 9, 2013 at 03:31 AM · Uh,,,5th position. Then you only have a little hop back to hit the C# with the second finger. Sorry...

Edit: It would change the way the run sounds, though. It would definitely make it darker if some of it is played on the lower strings. I don't know if that would be a good thing or not. Maybe not. But it would get you out of that huge shift and you wouldn't be sliding around all over the place.

January 9, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Jeewon, just want to chime in that your post made a lot of sense to me, your posts are always so technically excellent, they give me as passionate amateur a glimpse into how professionals think and work, thank you.

January 9, 2013 at 11:56 AM · whot jean said - I had no idea you could do that. Actually I don't have much idea what you did, but its decidedly fascinating.

Now, where is my arps book...

January 9, 2013 at 01:19 PM · Yes, I know there is a stroke of brilliance in Jeewon's post. I plan to go back and study it when I have time.

January 9, 2013 at 03:30 PM · Thanks for your kind words folks. It's a bit embarrassing 'cause I'm no theorist (analysis still makes my brain hurt!) It would probably take me all day to unpack Dvorak's harmonic language, but it does help to figure out chords and scales in a passage you might be working on. It was interesting because when I played Smiley's fingering I would miss the shift as well... kept playing the D. When I played Lydia's fingering I had no problem getting the C#. On the one hand it's probably the difference between seeing/thinking a group of notes in sequence as opposed to a leap, but on the other, I think it's also what gets emphasized. In Smiley's fingering you kind of hear G#-B emphasized, and of course your ear wants to hear D next: G#-B-D or G# diminished (which is the VII of Amaj, or the upper triad in Emaj7: E-G#-B-D, which is the Dominant of, and therefore resolves to Amaj, the relative major of F#min.) In Lydia's fingering, the shift to A on f1 emphasizes A, which along with the 1-2-3 fingering, naturally brings out A-C#, the upper third in F#min. Of course because of the held F#min chord underneath the run in m86, it seems natural to focus on that chord, especially for tuning and shifting purposes; but from an interpretive standpoint it's a toss up whether to blend the 4th 8th-pulse into F#min, or emphasize it, make it clash with the underlying chord (in which case you can think of G# and B as the main chord notes and A as the passing note.) In my score the diminuendo in m86 starts on the 3rd 8th-pulse which might suggest blending the 4th pulse. In the score above the diminuendo starts on the 4th 8th-pulse, which would suggest the clash. I guess editors couldn't agree either.

The reason to make the arpeggio a priority in runs is to train the arm to flow through the run, so it doesn't get stuck on intermediate shifts.

January 9, 2013 at 04:19 PM · I don't suppose you could start a topic introducing these concepts coudl you Jeewon? For those of us theory-blind paupers....

January 9, 2013 at 05:42 PM · Jeewon, you're right on my wavelength! I believe an essential part of musical literacy is being able to recognize at any moment which scale or arpeggio you are in. In fact this is one of the essential reasons to practice scales -- IMHO this is even more important than using scales as a vehicle for developing technique.

I am constantly pointing out to my students that "this passage is nothing more than an E Major Scale." And I am also constantly asking them "what scale is this? What arpeggio is this passage based on?

If you have developed some sort of organized method for presenting this skill, I would love to know about it.

January 9, 2013 at 07:07 PM · Hi Elise, I'm in a bit of a lull before the... work right now, but I don't think I could monitor and give the attention such a thread deserves going forward. It's a great idea and I think you should start it:) So for now I'll just continue here.

Some things one might want to start with:

Memorize the names of all the keys, their key signatures and practice "manipulating" them in your head.

e.g. C Maj = no sharps, no flats = C, D, E, F, G, A, B = (in degrees of the scale) I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII = (in solfege) do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do


A) Sing OR Speak, (Or Both)

ascending and descending: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C C, B, A, G, F, E, D, C

sing or play, but using a drone, or playing the tonic (I); hear/feel the dissonances/consonances created by each degree of the scale against the tonic; intervals are the building blocks of music and the way they make us feel are their "meaning"

sing and hear/feel the 'tendencies' of each degree above the tonic in the scale: C,A,G.. C,F,E.. C,B,C.. C,D,C..

also, I,VI,V.. I,IV,III.. I,VII,VIII(VIII = octave above I).. I,II,I.. OR do,la,so.. do,fa,mi.. do,ti,do.. do,re,do

listen to how VI tends toward V, IV toward III, VII toward I, II toward I; listen to how semitone tendencies have much more 'pull' ('tug'?), and wholetone tendencies seem to float a bit before landing softly

of course you could go on and on with such singing/ear training exercises:


ascending: I,II I,III I,IV I,V I,VI I,VII I,VII descending: VIII,VII VIII,VI, etc.

ascending: (II,I,II.. to get your bearings, or just sing the scale up and down first to lock in the tonality) II,III,II.. II,IV,II.. II,V,II.. II,VI,II.. II,VII,II.. II,VIII,II.. II,IX(octave above II),II and descending, and also similar exercise, starting on each degree of the scale

I,II,III III,II,I I,III III,I; II,III,IV IV,III,II II,IV IV,II; etc. + descending, and for the rest of the intervals

There are many other ear training exercises to do: e.g. play a semitone harmonically on the keyboard (i.e. play them together; e.g. B+C) and sing them; interval recognition, etc. Ricci Adam's site has some good ear training and reading tools. Check out how non-chord tones sound and feel.

I think theory is much more interesting and more easily learned in the context of what it sounds like (rather than learning numerical relationships alone) which is the essence of it anyway. But it also helps to practice manipulating patterns of notes.

B) Practice speaking patterns:

Tetrachord: four note sequence, most commonly referring to the 1st 4 notes, lower tetrachord, and last 4 notes, upper tetrachord, of a major or minor scale.

E.g. in C major: think C, speak rapidly: C,D,E,F and back down: F,E,D,C; repeat: C,D,E,F,F,E,D,C

then speak the upper tetrachord: G,A,B,C,C,B,A,G and repeat


E.g. C: (the Key followed by a colon is a common way to indicate key when analysing a work) speak rapidly: C,E D,F E,G F,A G,B A,C and descending C,A B,G A,F G,E F,D E,C

If necessary: C,D,E E,D,C C,E E,C ...


C: C,G D,A E,B F,C G,D A,E B,F and descending


C: C,E,G G,E,C; D,F,A A,F,D; etc. and descending


C: C,F D,G E,A F,B G,C A,D B,E and descending


C: C,E,G,C C,G,E,C etc.

In each key, pay attention to the diminished fifth.

C: B,F this very unstable interval, which is found in the V7 (dominant 7th in C: G,B,D,F) or VII chord (B,D,F) is very important in traditional harmony, as it most frequently resolves to C,E or the bottom third in the tonic triad (C: C,E,G)

Practice speaking note names each time you work on a different key. Of course, you could also write it down and speak it. Also, just read it from scale books. If reading music is slow, it would help to simply read note names, a little bit everyday, from pieces/etudes being studied. When practicing patterns rapidly I think it's okay to omit the flat or sharp after the lettername, but when reading scores I would get in the habit of speaking every accidental after the letter name.

After a while, you get familiar with these patterns and they make more sense when you start reading about them in texts (web sites,) and when you start trying to figure out chords and scales in your pieces. Of course at first, it can be a chore, especially to learn ALL the keys and practice patterns with them, but hey...

Of course this is all very standard stuff and when dealing with non-traditional scales (e.g. modes, gypsy-scale) and chromatic harmonies it becomes more difficult to analyse in these terms, but when it comes to reading one chord at a time these skills will always apply.


Hi Roy, agreed! I've always thought scales/arpeggios were about ear/literacy training also. There are much more efficient ways to build left hand technique. I think one reason to learn all this seemingly tedious theory stuff is to create categories for our mind, to help recognize and organize the dots on the page, and relate them with sounds, and ultimately to motor control. Like I've been saying to the few students I've taught since I read Doidge's, The Brain That Changes Itself, "clear in, clear out; fuzzy in, fuzzy out." Organization, concepts and categories matter (that is, if we want to study and perform composed music.)

I don't really have an organized method as I haven't done any long-term building work in the last 10 years or so, but I have given a subset of the above exercises to certain students as was necessary. After that I'd tell them to just go get a keyboard harmony teacher already! :)

January 9, 2013 at 08:37 PM · Jeewon,

I was playing around with measure 86 this morning and I had the exact same experience you did. If you shift up to 3rd position (Lydia's fingering), it is a lot easier to hit the C#, but the problem is, then you have to get up to 7th position, so the next shift is a lot tougher. If you shift to 4th position on the C# (the fingering that I posted), it is easier to get to 7th position, and also the finger pattern is the same 2-1-3-2 in 4th position, then 2-1-3-2 in 7th position; it works out pretty nicely if you can just hit that darn C#. And like you, I also have a tendency to hit a D rather than C# if I shift up to 4th position there.

At any rate, after about 20 minutes of repetition, I am able to play it both ways, but I think shifting to 4th position, then 7th will ultimately yield a cleaner performance than shifting to 3rd then 7th.

January 9, 2013 at 08:46 PM · BTW,

I am a bit of a novice when it comes to music theory, but I think Jeewon is on the right track to understand the underlying structure of the key signature. Therein lies the problem. I can handle most key changes, but in this piece, Dvorak changes keys in the middle of the run. This happens in numerous places. That's why the notes are not intuitive, and so hard to hear inside your head.

At any rate, I think this is a beautiful piece, when played by anyone except me :-) And also has a lot to offer for building technique and a better understanding of music theory.

January 9, 2013 at 08:52 PM · "this is a beautiful piece, when played by anyone except me"

Wrong. You're not alone.

January 9, 2013 at 08:56 PM · Wish I'd suggested analysing the piece.

Now, if only I could get my hands on some kind of thesaurus that linked all the fingering patterns with their harmonic/melodic context in a natural and concise way.

January 9, 2013 at 09:21 PM · Hi Smiley, after trying a few different fingerings, I keep coming back to your original. I guess I don't like shifting to the A on f1 because it's on the weak beat (even though technically speaking it's a 'good' semitone shift.) Of course you could change to a down bow on the A. If you can find a good thumb position for the second shift afterward reliably it's not too bad. Or alternately, you could extend 3 on D, and take the next shift on 2.

I also tried extending the second finger on the A and shifting on 2 twice. It's a fast fingering, but I don't think this passage should be that fast. At a slower speed it's too "slurpy."

Lastly I tried extending to the A on 2, then quickly shifting to the C# on 3, then to 2. Not bad, but a bit finicky, and like you say it doesn't preserve the repeated pattern.

If you want to use your original you could try practicing in the groups circled below. Accent the beginning of each group until the shifts are secure. In this case it helps emphasize the A, rather than the G#, but in general moving false accents around can help solve a lot of issues with shifting, evenness, etc. Also using a cue from the palm might help with finding 4th position. And I'd suggest drilling the position shift on 2 (G# to C#) rather than on 3 (A to D). On 3, it's too easy to pivot the elbow around the bout making it easy to slide the 2 into D. Preserving the angle of the wrist while playing 2 and just bumping the palm into the lower plate takes you right into 4th. (I guess it depends on the size of your hands too.) In negotiating the bout, it helps to plan when to just slide and when to slide + pivot.


It's a great piece! My favourite by Dvorak I think.

Edit: Ooh, a bunch of posts went up -- didn't refresh before posting this one.

Edit 2: Read through it, and I'm kind of liking shifting to 1 on the A again in m86, but with a slight rubato and agogic stress on the G#, to emphasize the clash and lighten the shift, followed by a shift on 2, B# to D

January 10, 2013 at 03:07 AM · Excellent comments. Thank you all for your responses. I'd like to turn your attention back to the opening of the piece.

In my edition, it starts in 5th position on the D-String, but I have seen youtube videos where it is played in first position on the A-String. Any thoughts on that? I like the warm sound of the D-String and also the fact that you can get a wider vibrato in 5th position.

Also, any thoughts on the two notes in the first measure and whether they should be slurred? The notes are not connected so why not play them with separate bows as in measure 28?

BTW, I am really enjoying this piece. This morning I got carried away with practicing and almost missed my tee time :-)

January 10, 2013 at 05:15 AM · Smiley, These are two excellent questions. The answers must come from you because they reflect your artistry. All the alternatives are acceptable. You decide. Don't let anybody else do it for you!

January 10, 2013 at 05:59 AM · I would add to Ray's comments: In many cases in this piece, you will want to finger for expressiveness as opposed to fingering for security, despite the oddities of the key and so forth. And some of those repeated notes can benefit from a change in color from shifting to a different string, possibly with a small bit of portamenti, too. You may want to think about what this work sounds like ideally in your head, work out bowing and fingering that matches that, and then deal with making those choices work technically.

January 10, 2013 at 10:28 AM · durn, now I have to go down and try this again - its a piece that plays by itself in your head once you see the first two notes.

My preferences? Agreed on the 5th position tone - and tonal consistency as you stay on the same string through the phrase. Also, I would play the first two notes slurred. To me this piece needs a gentle entry and by slurring you facilitate that with an up bow followed by the expressiveness of the down bow in the next bar....

January 10, 2013 at 01:00 PM · My former chamber music teacher would say it's not always about what's

'best,' but what you can do most convincingly. So not only are such choices about preference or propensity, but also what you can pull off (which might depend not only on the player, but also on the instrument.)

I'm gonna go against the flow and say I prefer a simpler opening on the A string. I guess I see 'molto espressivo' as an indication for the whole piece, not just the opening, and not necessarily 'appassionato.'

I think the two up bows can allow for a more pulsating sound using a parlando (kind of like staccato, but with a gentler press and without stopping the motion of the arm,) as opposed to a bow change, although the parlando sound can be achieved with a bow change (it's just that we don't normally make that sound with bow changes.) Parlando can bring out a certain melancholy which seems appropriate for Dvorak.

But at m28 separating the bows allows you to start the next up bow at the very tip so you can phrase to m30. Playing two up bows at the opening might suggest phrasing to m25 and letting the rest of the phrase fall away. "Never play the same thing the same way twice." Or you could play the opening 4 measures with less contour and more evenly throughout, less 'motion' than the second phrase.

I think the difference in bowing has more to do with the editor's suggestion for bow distribution than what Dvorak might have wanted. In my score both are tied with an articulation marking.

Your enthusiasm is quite catching!

January 10, 2013 at 02:18 PM · "Your enthusiasm is quite catching!" - yup, right now there are 3,256,890 V.comers playing Dvorjak's Romance...

January 10, 2013 at 05:15 PM · And 3,256,889 of them sound better than me :-)

January 10, 2013 at 07:43 PM · If I were playing this piece I might just leave all four options open to the inspiration of the moment.

January 10, 2013 at 07:59 PM · Keeping in mind what Roy said, we also have to plan for the whole piece, in particular, how we'll bring the opening theme back in light of what we did at the beginning (and also in context of how the orchestra/piano played it the very first time.) So practicing for options sounds like a good plan.

January 10, 2013 at 09:38 PM · Smiley: - nope, at most 3,256,888.

I read Jeewon's arp analysis post with absolute facination - but went back to my reality of Kreutzer #12.... its a start....

January 10, 2013 at 10:06 PM · Elise wrote:

"Smiley: - nope, at most 3,256,888."

Why? Is your cat working on this piece too?

Roy and Jeewon,

Good idea to learn it several different ways and choose one depending on my mood during the performance. Too bad I don't have the courage to do that. I would for sure screw it up royally. :-(

January 10, 2013 at 11:18 PM · Like in some other pieces, I think it is important to have a good trained ear harmonically speaking in order to play in tune, meaning that you must have a sense of ubication of what key and what chord you are at every moment. Otherwise your fingers can betray you...

Good luck!

January 10, 2013 at 11:30 PM · Smiley: Elise wrote:

"Smiley: - nope, at most 3,256,888."

Why? Is your cat working on this piece too?

Your stat was how many are better than you. Thus, f I am worst, then at worst, you are second worst and there are 3,256,888 better than you. QED (no cats were killed for this gut calculation)

On the other hand if the wurst is german then all bets are off...

January 11, 2013 at 12:47 AM · Excellent notion Elise!

Steps to basic harmonic analysis:

1. Name key. K12 is in A minor

2. Stack notes in thirds. If there are 3 'stackable' notes in 3rds it's a triad. If there are 4 'stackable' notes in 3rds, it's a '7 chord' (a tetrad.) When you stack notes in thirds, the bottom most note is called the root, the second note is the 3rd, the third note is the 5th, and the 4th note is the 7th, so called because of their intervalic distance above the root.

At first, ignore any notes which don't belong to these stacked chords.

Thinking of the scale notes of the key, write down triads built on each degree of the scale.

In A minor:

i = ACE

ii = BDF


iv = DFA

v = EGB



But recall that in minor keys we need to raise the seventh degree, G to G# in A-minor, so we have a leading tone for cadences. So v = EGB becomes V = EG#B and VII = GBD becomes vii dim(inished) = G#BD. Adding a 7 to these chords makes them more unstable, since the diminished 5th has such a strong pull (tendency) toward resolution. In V7 = EG#BD, the G# pushes up to the A (tonic) and the D wants to fall to C, the 3rd degree of A-minor; also the leap of a fifth, E to A = V to I, feels very stable and/or final. In viidim7 = G#BDF, though we're missing the strong V-I motion, we still have the G# and D tending toward A and C, but what's more, the B and F create another diminished fifth which pulls strongly to C and E, the 3rd and 5th of A-minor. You'll see 7 chords mostly applied to V and VII, unless the key is changing (see tonicization or modulation.)

3. Look at all the chords you stacked and underneath the staff write their chord numbers in Roman numerals (you could also write their letter names, e.g. Am, for A minor, above the staff.) If most of the measure consists of the chord notes than it's pretty safe to say the whole measure consists of one chord, in which case you can label the beginning of the measure. If there are several stacked chords within a measure, label each one underneath and/or above their place in the measure. Now you can see the basic harmonic structure of the piece.

Commonly chord progressions follow the circle of 4ths: I-->IV-->VII-->III-->VI-->II-->V-->I, where any intermediate chord may be omitted: e.g. I-IV-V-I, is a very common progression in simple songs. The progression for Pachelbel's (in)famous Canon is I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V, over and over and over..., and finally-I. Of course progressions can be repeated for emphasis, a triumphant return: e.g. V-I-V-I-V-I (heard any Beethoven endings lately?) Because the V-I progression feels so final, most endings have V-I cadences. IV-I cadences also feel pretty final, but somehow more peaceful (it's the "Amen" cadence.)

In K12, we see this progression:

i-->iv-->vii-->III-->V-->i (then some foreign progression we haven't talked about D#dim-->B7-->D#dim7-->E and back to) i-->VII-->i--> (weird Bb chord-->D#dim)-->i-->V-->i

Harmonic progressions start with the tonic = i, and take us as far away from it as possible = V, and bring us home again, back to i. In a similar fashion, when composers get bored of sticking to the notes of one key, they'll venture off to other keys, in traditional harmony typically to the key of the dominant or the subdominant: in A-minor, related keys would be E maj and the slightly closer D min. (Other related keys would be e minor and D major, the tonic minor and major of E maj and D min. More related keys would be the dominant and subdominant of the relative major/minor; for A-minor, whose relative major is C-major, those would be G (distant) and F (close) major. The more closely related the key, the more common notes they share; see closely related keys.)

So in K12, we can see that the foreign progression is really just a little trip to E major-land (tonicization of the dominant key) which is why instead of calling the D#dim, sharp IV or something, we call it by its function, namely the VII of the dominant of our home key: VII of V (or VII over V,) which resolves on the dominant in the next measure, making the dominant sound like a new tonic (tonicization,) a new key area. Now any time we land on a chord, it sounds most stable in it's root position. When we invert it, it sounds less stable, still like the original chord but somehow with more energy. So although we were taken to E-major it was brief, and E-major is quickly destabilized in the next measure by inverting it with the 3rd on the bottom (first inversion.)* And before we know it we're back home to our tonic. He wanders around a bit and throws in a curve ball with the Bb chord, as if he wanted to take us to subdominant-land for C-maj (the relative major of A-min,) then back to dominant-land of A-min, but he says, "just joking" and quickly brings us back home (N.B. the way he prepares us moving from D#dim to Amin, seemingly distant chords; by ending with the high A, the dim. 5th of D#dim, and progressing to i6/4, Amin in second inversion, he gives us that strong V-I progression in the leap from A to E, and the D# pushes chromatically up toward E -- wouldn't have sounded the same had he given us i in root position.)

4. Of course in K12, we only have to deal with chord notes. And for most pieces, more complex than an etude on arpeggios, you'll need the full score. But if the composer throws in a bunch of scale notes that don't stack well, that's when we start labeling non-chord notes which don't really matter in terms of the harmonic structure of a piece, only for it's interpretation (and, oh yeah, for the tune I guess.) Also, if you can't figure out how a chord relates to the piece, just label it with it's letter name until you can ask someone what's goin' on.

Hope you have some fun with analysis!


*Technically I should add numbers to the Roman numerals to indicate inversions: V6 for 1st inversion, since now the 5th of the chord is a 6th above the bottom note, the 3rd, and V6/4 for second inversion, since the top note is a 6th above the bottom note, and the middle note is a 4th above the bottom note, the 5th; when looking at a full score, the bottom most note in the whole score is considered when labelling inversions. See triad and 7th chord inversions [Edit: added the inversions to the score; note also how inverting chords helps with voice leading]

January 11, 2013 at 07:47 AM · Jeewon. I am agog. Seems to me you have A. a decent part of a violinist theory chapter, and B. a prodigious talent for explaining the unexplainable and making it accessible (even fun!), and C. a clear mind that can work rapidly through these ideas. This would seem to add up to a book on theory for violinists.

Just look what you have done on this topic alone. How about it?

I understand this analysis while the music stays in the primary key but (and I hope this doesn't sound dumb) I get confused as to which set of notes constitutes a particular chord, in particular once the composer 'got bored and wandered off'. Odd rhythms or accidentals can generate chords that seem too exotic for the passage. I hope that makes sense (clearly writing violin theory books is not in MY future :) ).

January 11, 2013 at 09:55 AM · Jeewon, in harmonic analyses people commonly use the verb "to resolve", you do it too, but what would be a precise definition of that term?

January 11, 2013 at 02:06 PM · Hi Jean, Resolution, in traditional harmony, can be likened to solving a problem in math. [Latin solvere to loosen, free, release, dissolve] The 'problem' is dissonance, and the solution is the move toward consonance, by way of a sequence of chord changes (sort of like intermediate steps in a proof.) As in math there are certain rules for how each chord may be tweaked (prepared) so that it transitions to the next chord smoothly (particularly for voice leading, so that there are no jarring lines for individual parts, which sometimes results in very boring inner lines.) In this larger context, dissonance might mean a chord which is distant from the tonic. Within the same key, the furthest you can get away from the tonic would be it's dominant, from which you are compelled to return to the tonic, which is why V has such dominance in its tonic key. For more complex works, dissonance would mean exploring different keys altogether, in which case the resolution would refer to the clever ways in which the composer returns us home to the original key.

In a narrower context, a cadence is a resolution between just a few chords, usually placed at the end of a section or the whole piece. In this context we deal with dissonant intervals and the way they find their (re)solution in a more consonant interval.

e.g. a diminished 5th in V7 = B-F in G-B-D-F, suggests a simple resolution to a major 3rd = C-E in C-E-G; but other 'solutions' are possible: to C-Eflat-G or to the C-E in A-C-E, VI in C major. This motion from V7 to VI is one example of a deceptive cadence, because it doesn't quite feel like home. V makes us think of home, but we were taken to the cottage (VI), or worse, the office (ii).

I think the difficulty for us, today, is that we don't really have a problem with dissonance, at least not like the progenitors of Western Tonal Harmony did. We've grown accustomed to a song starting in one key and "modulating" to a key one semitone higher and ending there. In light of all that is possible, this half-step motion to a new key isn't a modulation at all, it's just a key change; and since the piece ends in the new key we have no resolution for the song, only for the chords within each section.

It's helpful to remember that, once upon a time, only unisons, perfect octaves and perfect fifths were considered harmonious and 'correct' (the diminished fifth, or tritone, was considered 'evil', diabolus in musica, "the Devil in music," as late as the early 18th century,) which is why in modal (church) harmony, the tritone was avoided like the dickens! Our system of accidentals arose from the need to 'soften' the offensive note, B, which creates a tritone with F, by flattening it. Hence "Hard B", a square with a tail, and "Soft B", a circle with a tail, became the sharp or natural, and flat. In German, dur=hard=major and moll=soft=minor, a similar treatment of 3rds.

In our context, post-Wagner-Debussy-Jazz-Schoenberg & cultural relativism, we've become accustomed to what once needed careful preparation and resolution. At the risk of oversimplifying, the history of Western Harmony can be seen as the struggle between control and autonomy, the domininance of a hierarchy of tones v. absolute equality (and whatever socio-political connections you may want to draw.)

But to get a sense of it, it helps to sing, play and feel the difference between stability and motion (what I've called 'tendency',) which is what ear training does for us (talk about forced indoctrination!). The simplest way to do this is to play scale tones against its tonic. Also practicing do-la-so, do-fa-mi, do-ti-do, do-re-do, makes the ear/brain hear stability and instability (or at least creates new categories for them.)

In a major scale the most stable scale degree (remember we're comparing all scale tones to the tonic) is the tonic, the most stable interval is the unison/octave.

stable intervals = unison/octave, perfect fifth, major third

unstable intervals = major second, major sixth, perfect fourth (because it tends toward the 3rd), major 7th

I think it helps to think of consonance and dissonance in those terms (instead of something like "pleasant" v. "ugly",) because relative stability depends on context. If you play a semitone followed by a wholetone, together (as a two note chord = dyad), the wholetone is more stable than the semitone, the wholetone is more consonant than the semitone, and so we can think of the movement from a semitone to a wholetone as a resolution from dissonance to consanance, and the note which changes in the resolution as the tendency tone.

When it comes to chords it gets more complicated, but in general, chords which serve to keep us in the same key (I, IV, V,) or chords most closely related to the tonic chord (chords which share common notes, III, VI) are considered more stable than II, VII, and non-key chords (chromatic or non-Western,) which can take us to far away keys. See pivot chords.


Thanks for your vote of confidence Elise, but oh, the enormity of the task!

What you say is not 'dumb' at all. Analysis takes study and practice (no short cuts here either I'm afraid) and to be able to analyse with ease it helps to be able to recognize all the possibilies which, to understate, are many. And it doesn't help when composers deliberately obfuscate to make things more interesting (to keep us guessing.) If you want a glimpse check out Harmonic Functions. If you need to back up a bit start here. Otherwise, "when in doubt, write it out," then keep rearranging the notes until you start to see patterns; collect the accidentals to determine what the key might be; keep track of semitone patterns to determine the scale.


Sorry to hijack your thread Smiley! Should have just listened to Elise in the first place...

January 11, 2013 at 02:12 PM · This is great. Seriously, I'm going to start learning this piece too!

How hard is the orchestra part to sightread? There's a chance I would be able to play it with a fairly decent sightreading orchestra.

January 11, 2013 at 03:20 PM · Jeewon,

This is terrific -- music theory intertwined with Dvorak. I had no idea my struggles would generate so much interest.


Give yourself more credit. You sound better than me. But I was going out on a limb with the assumption that if you had a cat and it was playing this piece, I would sound better than your cat. :-)

January 11, 2013 at 04:19 PM · Thanks for your patience Smiley! By way of penance, I offer my meager attempt at analysing your passage above. Sheesh I need a refresher course! (anybody else wanna help out there? pleeeeze?)


See how indoctrinated we are, Smiley? Our very own pentatonic scale, which we share with Dvorak's heritage, can sound foreign to our Western ears!

Pentatonic Scale

Dorian Mode

The dorian mode, with it's semitones between 2nd and 3rd degree, and 6th and 7th degree, can be considered another flavour of minor scale, with a raised sixth, but no leading tone.

January 12, 2013 at 07:20 AM · If I can go back to K12 a minute (forgive me Smiley) I didn't know about modal analysis but instead read each arp using the first (and last) note of each phrase as the root of a chord. This gives a sequenece (if I get this right) of Amin, Dmin, Gmag, CMag, Emag and back to Amin. Thats how I would have read it back in my guitar strumming days anyway.

Is this an alternative way to analyze - and what does this mean for the relationship beetween root chords and modes? Or is that just too complex (or silly) to think about?

January 12, 2013 at 02:28 PM · Jeewon,

You're a total stud!! How did you figure all that stuff out?

January 12, 2013 at 04:35 PM · Had to dust off my thinking cap for sure, Smiley! Re., "How did you figure all that stuff out?" rhetorical or inquiry?


Elise, your method works when the arpeggios are written in root position, and most of the chords in K12 are. But the 6th line, 2nd measure and 7th line, last measure are inversions, which is why you need to rearrange the notes and stack them in thirds to find which note is at the bottom of the stack of thirds, the root, to get your chord's letter name.

Modal analysis wouldn't apply to K12 because the harmonic progressions are conventional. I guess I was trying to elaborate a bit on the treatment of dissonance throughout history, and introduce topics people might like to explore in the context of a more complex work like the Dvorak, but looking back it's all jumbled. I probably shouldn't have introduced the idea of modal harmony 'cause it's kind of confusing the topic of basic harmonic analysis. I guess this is the danger of writing too fast and breezy. I think I'll have to go back and rewrite that post at some point.

Modal harmony is a bit of an oxymoron in that when modes were used exclusively, music was constructed melodically, not harmonically, i.e. the first consideration was given to a single line of music using the notes from a mode, afterwhich other voices were added. At first only 8ves and 5ths were allowed. But as more intervals were allowed you would encounter the tritone now and then, which was forbidden, so it had to be 'treated' properly. The more I think about it the less clear it is to me, but I think modal harmonic analysis is really a product of 19th century analysis, as composers began to introduce folk elements into their writing. Nationalism was born! But to someone writing on the Continent in the mid 18th to early 19th C, like Monsieur K, everything would've been pretty conventional.

January 12, 2013 at 07:44 PM · if anyone wants to learn this type of theory in a more practical fashion (than a pure academic style), look for some sites that teach jazz piano or guitar. Constructing and substituting more complex chords from basic triads is a mainstay of jazz, and sometimes their approach is easier to understand than the classical. Gets you to the same place, tho, if you learn it well!

January 12, 2013 at 09:20 PM · It always helps to check out the piano part for the harmony. Often the violin part by itself is ambiguous. And things are not always what they seem.

In this instance a glance at the piano part shows:

81-82 F# minor

83-84 D Major

85-86 F# Minor

87-88 D Major

89-90 C Minor

Also I agree with Tom that the jazz approach is simpler and more relevant to us as players.

January 13, 2013 at 01:23 AM · I've said it before, without great penetration, but mathematics can say an awful lot more about music theory than people realise. It's just a shame people are not that interested.

Two examples.

Pivot chords: What are they, what do they do and how? Just how many are there?

What's so special about the major/minor scale system anyway?

January 13, 2013 at 03:30 AM · I'll bite Eric - what is a pivot chord?

January 13, 2013 at 05:41 AM · Elise, they are just chords that allow you to be ambiguous about key or move seamlessly from one key to another (pivot) by virtue of the fact that they belong to more than one...they are crossovers or intersections between keys.

Sometimes they inhabit different degrees of the keys, like the Major and minor triads which each belong to three major keys; so for eg. C Maj triad could be on I in C major, IV in G Major or V in F Major. This is perhaps like coming out of an, in this case threeway, intersection to different house numbers (degrees) in different streets (keys) but where the numbers really mean something. But if you just play C major triad where are you really?

Sometimes the pivot comes out on the same degree(s) of each of its keys! This happens with symmetric chords (where inversions all look the same) like the augmented triad and diminished 7th which are often used in the minor keys (the raised 7th of the harmonic minor scale makes this possible).

Ok, overkill. Now you can bite me :-)

January 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM · You seem pretty knowledgeable about theory Eric (I'm not). I'm curious to hear your response to major and minor scales also. :)

January 17, 2013 at 11:09 AM · Terry, in case you are still interested:

It is a little hard to explain but in simple terms the major/natural minor interval pattern (and its complement) modulates more closely than any other possible pattern!

That is to say it is the only pattern that can be turned into itself (albeit with different tonality) by simply raising or lowering a single note by just a semitone!

The major/minor key system is no accident.

Sorry, I took so long, I just wanted to check my calculations, as it may sound trivial but it isn't really.

January 17, 2013 at 11:53 AM · That's a great answer Eric, thanks. I was still curious.

February 14, 2013 at 02:23 AM · I'm still plugging away at this piece. For someone of my meager ability, I can probably spend months working on the awkward shifts and probably still not feel fully secure. At any rate, here's a video from my practice session this morning. I would welcome any constructive criticism.

1st page of Dvorak Romance

If you guys didn't care for Vengerov, then you're going to absolutely HATE me. The good news is I don't have to make a living at this :-)

February 14, 2013 at 03:33 PM · Although I am learning this piece transcribed for the viola, the "use one finger" technique that Bruce suggested really worked. It meant the difference from faltering in one passage to playing smoothly in it.

Thank you for posting that, Bruce! I'm doing a lot better now.

---Ann Marie

February 16, 2013 at 01:51 AM · What are you using to record yourself? I've been trying to figure out a solution for both audio-only and video recording.

Don't be too hard on yourself! You did manage to learn it!

Two quick comments... Be careful with your rhythm. And watch your bow distribution -- on some of those long slurs, you're using too much bow at the beginning, forcing you to cram the rest into the upper half of the bow, which shortchanges the strength of the sound as well.

You might also want to think more about fingering for expressiveness rather than fingering for technical convenience. There are lots of good places for expressive slides in this piece, and some places where they're really indicated, like when notes or phrases are repeated, and something is necessary to create color differences.

February 16, 2013 at 02:52 AM · Great suggestions Lydia. I am using just a digital camera to do the recording -- convenient but not very good sound quality. The shifts are still very awkward so it is hard to be expressive when much of my conscious energy is expended on technical issues and intonation. But this piece really forces you to move about the fingerboard. The opening for example starts in 5th position, goes to 6th then down to 4th position, and with 4 flats, none of the notes fall in comfortable places.

I will pay more attention to bow distribution. I think that will really help with phrasing and expressiveness. I've been playing this blasted instrument for years, and the longer I play, the harder it gets. But that's why I love it. Thanks for the feedback.

March 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM · I've been inspired to get the sheet music by this discussion and a wonderful recording by Josef Suk playing this piece. It looks chromatic on the page but is like honey to the ear. I would describe it as a written-out improvisation. I think I'll do what I sometimes do when learning an orchestral piece - listen to it on a loop while commuting, with the result that it stays in my head all day (whether I want it to or not). When I can sing or whistle the piece, then maybe my fingers will be able to find the notes...

March 20, 2013 at 10:07 PM · Mungo, you mean you weren't inspired by me? Haha :-)

It is a great piece. I am just now finishing it, at least getting the notes under my fingers. Now, I will spend a few more weeks polishing it and working on the musical aspect and figuring out ways to make the same passage sound different when it recurs throughout the piece.

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