If Dvořák’s cycle of Slavonic Dances consisted of only the first set, with a single exception the title could have been changed to Czech Dances. Only the second number was inspired by the Ukrainian dumka, while all of the other dances are based on domestic sources. It is only in the second set composed eight years later that the composer takes a broader look at the “Slavonic world”, and besides the Czech furiant, skočná, and sousedská, there is also a place for the Serbian kolo, the Polish polonaise, and the odzemek of Moravian Wallachia.
At the Dvořák Prague Festival, the entire cycle will be played by the superb Ardašev Piano Duo – the Slavonic Dances will be heard in the original version for piano four-hands, which is somewhat more intimate than the later orchestral arrangements, and also more transparent. The inspiration from folk sources comes across more directly in the piano version, more clearly revealing Dvořák’s artistry and development as a composer. Amongst the works he composed between the two sets of Slavonic Dances are the Violin Concerto and the oratorio Saint Ludmila – Dvořák was continually growing as a composer, and the second set of Slavonic Dances, in comparison with the relative simplicity of the first, moves in the direction of a much more sophisticated compositional statement.