Antonín Dvořák was one of the greatest composers of melody.
Perhaps the most catchy and popularly enduring example is the Humoresque No. 7 in G-flat Major (Poco lento e grazioso), originally written for solo piano. Propelled forward by an infectious, lilting rhythm, the melody develops in two-note steps which ascend gradually and explore a variety of motivic combinations before sinking into repose at the end of the phrase. As with much of the music which emerged from Dvořák’s American sketchbooks, the initial pitches outline the pentatonic scale. They evoke a sense of longing and nostalgia and celebrate the inflections of Czech folk music.
This iconic piece comes from a collection of eight Humoresques, Op. 101, which Dvořák composed during the summer of 1894. Rather than overt humor, the title suggests a brief, “whimsical or fanciful musical composition.”
This performance by the Polish pianist, Ignaz Friedman, was recorded on December 1, 1936:
The American jazz pianist, Art Tatum, put his own virtuosic and swinging stamp on the Humoresque: