By: Gina Cosgrove
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By: Gina Cosgrove. Basic Information. Title: String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, “American”, Op. 96 Composer: Antonín Dvořák 1893 One of the most popular in the string quartet repertoire Served as a model for American composers. Search for the American Sound.

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By: Gina Cosgrove

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By gina cosgrove

By: Gina Cosgrove

Basic information

Basic Information

  • Title: String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, “American”, Op. 96

  • Composer: AntonínDvořák

  • 1893

  • One of the most popular in the string quartet repertoire

  • Served as a model for American composers

Search for the american sound

Search for the American Sound

  • 1892- Jeanette Thurber hires Dvořák as director of the National Conservatory of Music in NY

  • Main goal: to discover “American Music”

    • African American and Native American music

  • Winter/Spring 1893- New World Symphony

  • Summer 1893- “American” String Quartet

Spillville iowa

Spillville, Iowa

  • Czech immigrant community

  • Spent summer vacation

  • Family and Friends



  • “I should never have written these works ‘just so’ if I hadn’t seen America”- Dvořák

  • Second Movement

    • African American Spiritual

    • Speculation

  • “The only American thing about the work is that it was written there”- Paul Griffiths (analyst)

  • “The specific American qualities of the so-called “American” Quartet are not so easily identifiable” -Lucy Miller (analyst)



  • Pentatonic Scale- open, simple character (associated with America)

  • Four movements

  • Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, and cello

  • Tempo: varies from slow to fast

1 st movement allegro ma non troppo

1st Movement-Allegro ma non troppo

  • pentatonic first theme

  • open voiced triads (3rd of scale played octave higher)

  • pentatonic second theme with melismatic ornamentation (characteristic of gypsy and Czech music)

  • sonata form (exposition theme 1 and 2, development, recapitulation)


2 nd movement lento

2nd Movement- Lento

  • African American Spiritual/Native American Tune

  • pulsating harmony

  • pentatonic scale melody


3 rd movement molto vivace

3rd Movement- Molto vivace

  • spirited and dance like

  • off-beats and cross rhythms (ex. Eighth notes against triplets)

  • ABABA structure

  • B melody is A melody played in triplets at half tempo in minor (more lyrical and pulsated)

  • melody is said to be of the scarlet tanager



4th movement finale vivace ma non troppo

4th Movement- Finale: vivace ma non troppo

  • ABACABA (rondo)

  • syncopated rhythm

  • train-like pulse and drive

  • pentatonic melody A, more lyrical melody B, chorale theme C


Music semiotics

Music Semiotics

  • Icon: first theme of third movement= scarlet tanager’s song, harmonic accompaniment of fourth movement= rhythm of a train

  • Index: chord progressions (I-IV-V-I) predictable cadences (song ends phrases predictably)

  • Symbol: open voiced triads= openness of America’s West



  • Influence of American folk music on Quartet:

    • Debatable

  • Influence of Quartet on American music:

    • Undeniable

    • “The extensive use of folk-songs in 20th century American music and the ‘wide-open-spaces’ atmosphere of ‘Western’ film scores may have at least some of their origins in Dvořák’s new American style”- George Butterworth (critic)

  • Influenced other American composers to enter quartet genre

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