Humoresque by Dvorak

March 15, 2005 at 05:59 PM · Hi

I am currently studying the Humoresque by Dvorak, and I have noticed that there are hundreds of different arrangements of it, including editions for violin in several keys, with several different variations, and arrangements on other instruments.

I am interested to know:

a) For what instrument was it originally written?

b) What key was it originally in?

c) Who wrote all the variations and arrangements? Dvorak?

d) Why are there so many variations and arrangements? Did Dvorak intend for this, or did he maybe write the tune as a general tune to be used by other composers to arrange?

I'd appreciate any help greatly.

Does anybody have a favourite recording of it? I rather like the Perlman/Yo-Yo Ma violin-cello arrangement with orchestra. And the Heifetz version.

Replies (43)

March 15, 2005 at 06:17 PM · I like the recording by Christian Ferras (sp?). I'm not sure if it's available anymore. I think the piece was originally written for piano, but I may be wrong.


March 15, 2005 at 08:07 PM · thats interesting i didnt know that

there is a clip on the art of violin with elman playing this

for recordings i like grumiaux on the cd favorite violin encores

...there are many other fine recordings available

March 15, 2005 at 08:33 PM · It was one of Elman's most famous performance pieces, and the clip on the Art of the VIolin mentioned above is great.

March 15, 2005 at 09:54 PM · listen to josef hassid's version

he does some double stops that i've never heard anyone else do

overall, it's just amazing like everything else he played

March 15, 2005 at 11:59 PM · I second Hassid.

March 16, 2005 at 12:02 PM · It is No.7 of the 8 humoresques op.101 composed for piano. Kreisler transcribed it to violin and piano, and recorded it 4 times, one playing the original on piano (yes, he was also a fine pianist).

March 16, 2005 at 12:26 PM · Thanks for the info, Carlos. I am always ashamed at my lack of music history knowledge. We should all strive to be more well rounded musicians, not just violinists, don't you think?

March 16, 2005 at 01:00 PM · Good thread ,exellent question.

I so agree Benjamin, in a land of high incidence of undiagnosed aspereger's syndrome ,noted for its wonderful engineers

I once had a good student,now at university who played this piece.Her mentor at her secondary school advised her not to bring her instrument to school ,as she would be laughed at for being too serious.Hence the piece.

But all her friends ganged together and said she was practising too much.So her mentor ,without once consulting me ( her violin teacher) told her she was only allowed to practise 15 mins a day ,otherwise she would be "affected" by the material.This was enforced,both by her peer group ,and her school teachers.She was not especially good at anything else.


Note this was the SGL in a city 45 mnis NW of A"dam,the most tolerant city in the world.

Food for thought -eh?

Mark N

March 16, 2005 at 01:02 PM · Yes, I often was frustrated as a child growing up in the rural south. I was the only classical violinist in the whole county, so my father would drive me an hour south into Florida twice a week to private lessons and orchestra rehersals. Nine times out of ten if someone from my hometown heard me playing, they would instantly ask me if I could play "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." I learned to loathe the mention of this song so much that I made an oath to never learn to play it. People sometimes felt the need to remind me, as if I couldn't have possibly noticed, that "We like country music 'round here!" Fiddlers felt the need to accuse me of "Getting all up on your high horse" whenever I played, and seemed to think that because I was classically trained that I couldn't play by ear or improvise.

When I was 15 we moved to a different town, and the paper did an article on me because I had been selected for the Florida All State orchestra. The paper came out in the summer, and I started at the new high school the following fall. By the time I set foot on campus, it was all over the school that I was gay, based on the fact that I played the violin.

Experiences like this can be very crippling psychologically for a child. I hope that my daughter doesn't have to go through the same.


March 16, 2005 at 02:31 PM · This discussion is very relevant to the discussion we've been having on homeschooling.

Unfortunately, most traditional school settings foster a sense of anti-intellectualism. It's not "cool" to be passionate about anything. I myself was a victim of such an environment.

When I have children, I am seriously going to consider homeschooling. One thing that homeschooled children have in common is that it would never occur to them that excitement about learning is "uncool."

March 16, 2005 at 06:40 PM · Aww Benjamin , this you could have done without.Look it straight in the eye , and grin .The're just jealous.

NB It would be interesting to do a correlation bewteen homeschooling opportunities and the percentage of professionals home grown in a country.Germany and Holland have banned homeschooling as an option ,the latter similtaneously with the "liberalisation"(1969).It's why there are so many professional string foreigners in their(NL) orchestras.It's why so little initiative is allowed to be taken outside of subsidy.

Mark N

March 25, 2005 at 02:41 AM · I too am a musician who is misunderstood. I live in Upstate SC, quite possibly the most hillbilly place in the world. Because I have a disdain for the Confederate Battle Flag and because I don't like country music I am a Yankee, and a nerd. I wish the masses could be educated, but down here in SC, 50% of adults don't have a high school diploma. If only I was a Yankee......

March 25, 2005 at 05:14 AM · haha DJ... i know exactly what you mean!- even though the area i live in isn't as "rednecky" as where you are...

March 25, 2005 at 05:16 AM · oh about the actual question- all the recordings i've heard and the ones i've looked up are in g flat major

March 25, 2005 at 11:39 AM · hehe DJ, you said " If only I was a Yankee......"

Correct grammar would be "If only I WERE a Yankee......"

Sorry, couldn't resist that one!

March 25, 2005 at 12:00 PM · DJ Cheek,

Don't worry about it. I've lived all over this country, from Boston, New York, and Ohio, to Missouri, Indiana, and Texas, and I can tell you from experience that people are pretty uniformly ignorant everywhere. What's more, I've met ignorance on just about every level of society. I have met some very intelligent people as well, often in the most unexpected places. Once you realize that a person's position often has little to do with his or her knowledge or intelligence, you can begin to see people for what they really are (I realize I am disagreeing with Plato here, but it is my experience nonetheless).


March 25, 2005 at 03:31 PM · Benjamin: if you want to find a perfect example of what you said, came to Argentina and talk with politics, judges, trade union leaders, legislators, big bosses of enteprises....If you put all of them together maybe you can made a single inteligent person.

March 25, 2005 at 04:54 PM · Pratik Desai - many violinists play the Wilhelmj version - in G-major.

The original piano version is of course in G-flat.

July 11, 2006 at 10:20 PM · Larry,

The original score by Dvorak was for Piano

Fritz Kreisler, who, as I recall, was a friend of Dvorak heard it, and transcribed it for the violin.

There are many versions because (1) Kreisler was a virtuoso/composer, and (2) many other violinists heard it and would add their own embellishments, according to their skills. When Kreisler played his own music trills and grace notes would appear in places he had not written them. Hope this helps. I have a couple of Kreisler recordings of this.


July 11, 2006 at 10:52 PM · Hassid!!!!!! If I could play one note as beautifully as he plays that Dvorak, I could die a happy man.


July 11, 2006 at 11:09 PM · what a sad end to a great talent. joseph hassid had it all...

July 12, 2006 at 12:47 AM · When I learned this piece in Suzuki, my teacher wanted me to put all sorts of rubato and extra "stuff" into it.

Now that I'm older, I pretty much play it simply and "straight ahead". It's such a pretty and singable melody - there just isn't a need to embellish it much. I play it at what I call "walking speed", which is on the slower side of life.

I most admire Jan Kubelik's straight-ahead recording of this work. He's the only player I know who infuses this Czech work with humble simplicity.

July 12, 2006 at 04:46 PM · I like the Nadja salerno-sonnenberg recording off the cd "Humoresque." People mentioned a Hassid recording before and said "I've never heard double stops played like that" or something... well Nadja does some too, and throws in octaves. I don't know if it's the same arrangement, I'd have to hear the other recording, but this one is really good, she plays with so much emotion.

July 15, 2006 at 07:36 PM · I agree about Hassid - an incredible performance from every point of view. He makes Humoresque into a work of art, rather than a traditional, old-fashioned, hackneyed encore piece.

However, I must add that there was a comedian/song writer years ago, Oscar Brand, who penned these immortal words to Humoresque (this is all I can remember, anyway):

Passengers will please refrain

From flushing toilets while the train

Is in the station,

Darling, I love you.

We encourage constipation

While the train is in the station,

Moonlight always

Makes me think of you.

If you wish to pass some water,

Kindly call a Pullman Porter,

He'll place a vessel

In the Vestibule.

If the Porter isn't here,

Try the platform in the rear,

The one in front

Is likely to be cool.

If these efforts are in vain,

Simply break a window pane,

This novel method's

Used by very few.

We go strolling through the park,

Goosing statues in the dark,

If Sherman's horse can take it,

Why can't you.

:) Sandy

July 15, 2006 at 08:07 PM · Pure poetry there.

October 17, 2007 at 10:40 PM · Here's a non-Elman version that's great, but crazy :)

October 18, 2007 at 12:22 AM · The old Kreisler recording is very special. I often play it for my students to show them what a great artist can do with a simple piece that they all know and have played.

There are also some great jazz renditions of this piece including a specially memorable one on violin by Stuff Smith. Also great jazz piano versions by Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.

October 18, 2007 at 05:09 AM · It seems to be based on "Swannee River" ("Old Folks at Home") by Stephen Foster. I've heard it's actually counterpoint to it. Chet played them both at the same time on a TV show, but there's no known tape of it.

October 18, 2007 at 05:13 AM · I shall validate:

"It seems to be based on "Swannee River" ("Old Folks at Home") by Stephen Foster. I've heard it's actually counterpoint to it. Chet played them both at the same time on a TV show, but there's no known tape of it."


Parts are, parts aren't.

October 18, 2007 at 05:30 AM · I've never heard the original piano version. But I'm just repeating what I was told, which could be wrong, as I implied.

October 18, 2007 at 05:40 AM · "original", Is significant I s'pose. It leaves the standard piano version immediately at the second theme.

Nonetheless, the 1st melody is significant and cool.

October 20, 2007 at 09:06 AM · And there's an enchanting performance on Youtube, by member Rachel Barton Pine.

Here is the link.

December 5, 2007 at 04:51 AM · The Kreisler arrangement is the one with all the flats (the one that Barton plays in the youtube video). The impact of this piece is all about the double stops. Way back when I bought the sheet music (Carl Fischer, arranged by Gustav Saenger) I did not realize that there was more than one version.

Since hearing a recording by Stern which I thought was really quite good I learned that he recorded the Wilhelmj transcription. It incorporates double stops in the A part as well as the B part (all the others only include double stops in the B part as far as I can tell). In my opinion this is the most successful transcription -- would love to hear other peoples thoughts.


June 21, 2008 at 02:46 AM · Well, everything's great and all, but I do have two questions.

1. Why did Antonin Dvorak name his song "Humoresque?"

(I always wondered about this, because the name suggests something related to humor, as does the tune of the song.)

My second question is:

I personally like the Version of Humoresque adapted by Fritz Kreisler. Where can you find this arrangement? Can you buy it Or on Ebay?

June 21, 2008 at 01:25 PM · I agree about the Hassid performance; among great performances of Humoresque, his is in a class by itself.

However, Humoresque is such a hackneyed old warhorse of an encore piece, that (and I'm sorry about this) every time I hear it, all I can think of are the words that folk singer Oscar Brand used in a recording decades ago. To wit:

"Passengers will please refrain

From flushing toilets while the train

Is in the station - Darling, I love you.

We encourage constipation

While the train is in the station,

Moonlight always make me think of you."

There are a few other verses, but I think you've probably seen more than you wanted to.

:) Sandy

August 1, 2008 at 03:21 AM · General Grant may be buried in Grant's Tomb, but Dvorak did not write Dvorak's Humoresque.

An extraordinary musician and violinist, famous as well for his kindness, visited Dvoraks widow and found her not well financed. He asked to look through Dvoraks papers, a wish that she granted. In them, he "found" the Humoresque, for which she retained all the royalties.

This was by no means the first time this great violinist attributed his work to others. Upon a moments reflection, it becomes unmistakably his.

August 1, 2008 at 04:18 AM · all I know is how to play it through the suzuki edition. (if it is different) I think it was made for violins.

August 1, 2008 at 01:57 PM · James - that is interesting! What about that humoresque op 101:7 that was published in 1894, 10 years _before_ he died? The one the thread is about? ;-)

January 22, 2009 at 05:10 AM ·


I was looking for some info about Humoresque as my son started to play it in Suzuki Book 3 and stumbled upon this old thread.

We watched Misha Elman play Humoresque on YouTube several times before and this week when his teacher introduced the piece, my son would say: "you did that but Misha Elman plays it differently". I love technology when it gives us the possibility to see great performers and try to learn. I love how the music breathes in his interpretation:

We just started to learn to shift to 3rd position and play G Major in 3 octabes slowly every morning and we'll try to learn to play it the Misha Elman's way after the Suzuki way. Anyone would have a score with some fingerings?

And by the way I am really glad that Misha Elman chosed to play it in G Major instead of Gb like Isaac Stern.

Any great Humoresque performance on youTube beside Elman and Perlman?

January 22, 2009 at 07:16 AM ·

>Any great Humoresque performance on youTube beside Elman and Perlman?

Rachel Barton Pine!

January 22, 2009 at 11:03 AM ·

Kreisler, of course.

September 9, 2012 at 06:06 AM · Re: Violin and people thinking you're a sissy.

It's nothing new. Our school orchestra had visits from a violinist-advisor. His name was Giuseppe "Joe" Nardulli. He was 1st chair in the L.A. Philharmonic at that time, and also was a veteran of Leopold Stokowski's NY Orchestra. He grew up in Chicago in the 20's and 30's. He became a pretty good fighter just because the bullies caught a glimpse of his violin case on a regular basis. Joe looked kind of like Fritz Kreisler. Anyway, he had to battle his way to school quite often in even those days. In the 60's, in California, I never had that problem. I would have mixed it up, though, because back then I didn't mind a dust-up. I had brothers, so it was natural for me.

September 9, 2012 at 06:11 AM · Oh, I almost forgot, regarding "Humoresque". The manuscript was almost lost. On Dvorak's sick-bed, Kreisler came to visit. He asked the old man if he had anything that he had not yet revealed to the world. Dvorak pointed at an old trunk. "Look in there". Kreisler rifled through it and found the Humoresque, and that's why we have it today.

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