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Dvorak - Symphony No. 8, op. 88

Bernhard Wünsch

conducts the Radio Symphony Orchestra Minsk

Dvorak CD

 

 

The Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, B. 163, was composed and orchestrated by Antonín Dvořák within the two-and-a-half-month period from August 26 to November 8, 1889 in Vysoká u Příbrami, Bohemia. The score was dedicated: "To the Bohemian Academy of Emperor Franz Joseph for the Encouragement of Arts and Literature, in thanks for my election." Dvořák conducted the premiere in Prague on February 2, 1890.

The Eighth Symphony is performed fairly frequently, but not nearly as often as the more famous Ninth Symphony ("From the New World"). In this regard the Eighth enjoys a similar status to the Seventh Symphony, despite the two works' marked differences. While the Seventh is a stormy romantic work, the Eighth is cheery and draws its inspiration more from the Bohemian folk music that Dvořák loved.

 

The work is in four movements:

  1. Allegro con brio (G major) – The first movement is a powerful and glowing exposition characterized by liberal use of timpani. It opens with a lyrical G minor theme in the cellos, horns, clarinets and bassoon with trombones, violas and double basses pizzicato. This gives way to a "bird call" flute melody. The general cheery nature of this movement is contrasted sharply by the more ominous minor-key sections.
  2. Adagio (C minor) – Despite being marked Adagio the second movement, in reality, moves along at quite a reasonable speed. It begins with a typically beautiful clarinet duet and ends quietly, but contentedly.
  3. Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace (G minor) – Most of the third movement is a melancholy waltz in 3/8 time. Near the end, the meter changes to 2/4, and the music ends in a manner not unlike that of the second movement. It is interesting to notice that the first notes of the Trio section (G major) are used in the Coda in 2/4.
  4. Allegro ma non troppo (G major) – The finale (formally a set of variations) is the most turbulent movement. It begins with a fanfare of trumpets, then progresses to a beautiful melody which is first played by the cellos. The tension is masterfully built and finally released at approximately two minutes into the piece, with a cascade of instruments triumphantly playing the initial theme at a somewhat faster pace. From there, following an enormous flute solo, the movement compellingly progresses through a tempestuous middle section, modulating from major to minor several times throughout. After a return to the slow, lyrical section, the piece ends on a chromatic coda, in which brass and timpani are greatly prominent.