Czech Philharmonic performs with the cellist Valentin Radutiu at the George Enescu festival in Buchurest.
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major "Villageoise"
Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88
For Dvořák, 1889, in which he finished Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, was a successful year indeed. He was offered the post of professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory and the National Theatre premiered his opera The Jacobin. The general interest in his music was further boosted by his fruitful visits to England.
Dvořák was absorbed in work on his Eighth Symphony from 28 August to 8 November, with the bulk of the time spent at his summer residence in Vysoká, the place he felt the most at ease. Yet the idyllic creative atmosphere was disturbed by a dispute with his “chief” publisher, Simrock, which ultimately resulted in an interruption of their co-operation for three years. Dvořák’s opus 88 was hence published by the London-based Novello. The symphony was subsequently given the subtitle “English”. In its basic features – four movements and their tempo scheme – Dvořák’s Eighth retains the structure of a classical symphony. Nevertheless, the work is striking owing to numerous innovations and a varied succession of changing moods. As the composer himself put it, he strove to treat themes and motifs in other than the “usual, universally used and acknowledged forms”.
Symphony No. 8 was premiered, with Dvořák himself conducting, on 2 February 1890 at the Rudolfinum in Prague within the popular Umělecká beseda society concerts. On 24 April of the same year it was performed in London at a Philharmonic Society concert at St. James’s Hall. An English reviewer wrote: “Although, just like Brahms, striving to adhere to the Beethoven school, Dvořák is the only one who is able to employ a distinctly new element in a symphony.” The Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick described the piece as follows: “This is one of Dvořák’s finest pieces……His works demonstrate an original personality, and this personality breathes the refreshing spirit of something novel and original.”
Noteworthy too is Dvořák’s commentary following the London premiere: “The concert turned out splendidly, dare I say as well as any other before… I was called several times to the stage – by and large, it was as nice and sincere as at the premieres at home in Prague. So I am satisfied and thank God that it has turned out so well!”
Shostakovich was indirectly inspired to compose Cello Concerto No. 1 by the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. When in 1952 he heard him perform Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Op. 125, in his mind he was conceiving a composition of the same kind for him ever since. He wrote it in the summer of 1959 in just 40 days, and like Prokofiev used the classical form of concerto, allowing the soloist to show off all of his art. The result is one of the most important and most difficult works for cello in concertante literature.
The score is dedicated to Rostropovich, who performed it for the first time on 4 October 1959 with Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerto contains introspective and autobiographical elements, of which the most striking is the musical motif of DSCH (consisting of the notes D, E flat, C and B natural in German musical notation pronounced as “De-Es-Ce-Ha” = D-mitri Sch-ostakovich). With the exception of the second movement it appears throughout the whole composition and is transposed to G, F flat, C flat, B flat (i.e., it stands out from the frame of the main key). It is heard at the very beginning of the first movement in the cello part and is repeated with the orchestra playing it after in an almost grotesque way.
The second movement is the most extensive and the most cantabile of the whole composition; the third movement has the form of a solo cadenza, but as can be expected, a larger and more autonomous one. The final rondo is played continuously within the ABAC scheme and again employs the DSCH motif, first in fragments and eventually in the full form in the horn part. The concerto ends with coda, rich in effects.
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