Rarely Heard Dvorak on Symphony @ 7
This evening on Symphony @ 7, we have a musical treat in the form of the rarely heard Symphony No. 2 in Bb by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. He was 24 when he completed this work in 1865. His big break in the music world with his Slavonic Dances was still about a dozen years away.
The first four symphonies Dvorak wrote were unpublished during his lifetime, and that helped create some confusion about the numbering of his symphonies for many years. Even the ones that were published then were not in the order of composition. The one we know today as No. 9 was published as No. 5, and then as No. 8. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that their true chronological numbering was established. You can still occasionally find old LP recordings referring to the popular Ninth Symphony, “From the New World,” as No. 5, or 8.
It’s said that it was beginning with the Fifth Symphony from 1875 that Dvorak found his true musical voice in this genre, although it was No. 6 from five years later that won him international attention as a symphonist. It’s there that the native Czech melodies and rhythms become fully integrated with his symphonic writing in a authoritative way (as in the fiery Furiant, a Czech dance in the scherzo of No. 6). Be that as it may, the early symphonies are still a real delight and as you’ll hear in Symphony No. 2 this evening, a major musical statement from a great composer.
The conductor in our recording, Jose Serebrier, considers it a masterpiece and gives it a committed performance in this new release that appears to be part of a new cycle of the nine symphonies. Join me for Dvorak this evening here on Classical 101.