Two Scarlet Songbirds: A Story of Anton Dvorak

Overview

Fact and fiction come together in a magically imagined tale of the composer Anton Dvorák's inspiration for "American Quartet." Transfixed by the birdsong of the little Iowa river town where he and his family are spending the summer, Dvorák seeks out the beautiful song of the scarlet tanager. And as the tanager woos a mate and begins to build a nest, Dvorák writes the bird's music down on everything from paper to shirtsleeves. At the end of one long summer evening, the scarlet tanager hears familiar music from the...
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Overview

Fact and fiction come together in a magically imagined tale of the composer Anton Dvorák's inspiration for "American Quartet." Transfixed by the birdsong of the little Iowa river town where he and his family are spending the summer, Dvorák seeks out the beautiful song of the scarlet tanager. And as the tanager woos a mate and begins to build a nest, Dvorák writes the bird's music down on everything from paper to shirtsleeves. At the end of one long summer evening, the scarlet tanager hears familiar music from the town's schoolhouse and settles on a branch nearby to listen. Inside, Dvorák and his friends play the first rehearsal of "American Quartet," inspired by the little songbird. Then, while one plays on, the other flies home.

While visiting Iowa in 1893, the Czech composer Anton Dvorak hears the song of a scarlet tanager and is inspired to create a new piece of music.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Based on a true story of the composer's summer vacation in a Czechoslovakian immigrant town in Iowa, this picture book introduces young readers to the music and genius of Anton Dvorák. The story tells of the musical inspiration Mr. Dvorák found in the evening song of the scarlet tanager and how he translated that song into music for violin, viola and cello. With its esoteric story line, onomatopoeic birdcalls and impressionistic illustrations, this picture book may not find instant appeal among young readers. But music teachers and art teachers will find the book to be a useful and entertaining way to introduce their students to the artist and his compositions. 2001, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, $18.99 and $16.95. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-In the author's terms, "historical fact and imagination are woven together" to describe how the famous Czech composer heard the song of the scarlet tanager while summering in Iowa in 1893 and was inspired to write the third movement of the American Quartet, a string quartet in F major. The story eloquently captures the essence of listening and skillfully demonstrates the patience and dedication Dvor k shows in trying to hear the bird's song and to re-create the melody with musical instruments. As the composer works, the bird is equally busy, finding a mate and building a nest. Gorgeously colored illustrations complement the subject matter. The red bird is always visible, even amid bright blues, greens, and yellows. The artist uses thickly applied oils in vibrant swirls to create van Goghesque paintings that seem to have rhythm and movement of their own. An author's note provides historical background. A stunning addition to any collection.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A mix of fact and fiction, this is a lovely tribute to the muse of music. In the summer of 1893, the composer Anton Dvorak traveled with his family to Spillville, Iowa, a town settled by people from his homeland of Czechoslovakia. A bird called a Scarlet Tanager also made a journey to Spillville, and when the two met, beautiful music was made. Schaefer (Down in the Woods at Sleepytime, 2000, etc.) tells the story of Dvorak's search for the elusive bird whose song had captured his imagination. He wandered the countryside, listening to the sounds of nature that inspired his music-sounds that ripple across the pages of the book. Meanwhile, the bird found a mate, built a nest, sang with its ladylove, and trilled messages to the other birds. Within days of his arrival, Dvorak filled a notebook, and his shirt cuffs, with musical notes-his American Quartet. And as the four musicians played the new piece of music, the Scarlet Tanager heard the sound of his own song, and stopped in the window to sing along for just a moment. Rosen's (The Soul of Africa, 2000, etc.) oil paintings truly bring this story to life. Her bold brush strokes and bright colors are reminiscent of Van Gogh, and bring a warm feeling to the entire story. The author's note fills in the details of Dvorak's trip to Spillville. What a wonderful way to introduce children to the world of music, and to the inspiration that is all around them. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375910227
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/11/2001
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.16 (w) x 10.26 (h) x 0.36 (d)

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