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  • Antonín Dvořák: Requiem in b minor, op.89

    6 jun 2007, 18:53 av Torelli

    Antonín Dvořák: Requiem in b minor - funeral mass for solo voices, chorus and orchestra, op. 89.

    Antonín Dvořák composed Requiem in 1890, therefore in the beginning of his peak creative period. This composition is one great reflexion of generally alarming questions of human beeing. Construction of the mass is not typical - composition is divided in two basic parts, which originate by the original interconnection of several liturgical sequences. Likewise, Dvořák inserted between „Sanctus“ and „Agnus Dei“ a lyrical movement „Pie Jesu“, created on the base of final text of sequence „Dies irae“. Basic melodic motif is created by two ascending half-tones with incorporated very sorrowful diminished third, which introduces all opus and continues in many variations as a "idée fixe", by which means runs through all work as importunate eschatologic question. Dvořák´s Requiem is a supreme opus of classicist-romantic synthesis.
    This composition inspired many other Czech composers, f.e. Josef Suk and Bohuslav Martinů.
    The opus was performed for the first time 9th October 1891 in British Birmingham under author´s conduction and its succes opened his pathway to glory.

    One of the best recordings of this opus is by
    Czech Philharmonic Orchestra - conductor Karel Ančerl, solists Kim Borg-bass, Sieglinde Wagner-contralto, Maria Stader-soprano, Ernst Haefliger-tenor and Prague Philharmonic Chorus - conductor Markéta Kühnová.

    This recordins was warded by prestigious Grand Prix du disque de l´académie Charles Cros, 1964
  • Antonín Dvořák / Stabat Mater, op.58

    12 jan 2008, 20:02 av JanBlanicky

    Among all Stabat Maters ever set to music by various composers over the centuries, this Antonín Dvořák´s work holds a special place as the most symphonic one and as the one that was the most clearly written by a classical orchestral composer. It is also one of the most moving Stabat Maters in terms of the personal background of the composer. As such, we can only fully appreciate it by knowing something of the composer’s life in order to understand what exactly he was doing with this highly unusual piece of work that even moves the soloists performing it to the brink of tears.

    Interpretation by Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic Chorus and vocal soloists, conducted by Wolfgang Sawalisch.

    Recorded 1990
  • Antonín Dvořák: Symphony no.9 "From The New World"

    30 maj 2007, 11:21 av JanBlanicky

    Antonín Dvořák´s Symphony No.9, e-minor, op.95, named "From The New World" ("Novosvětská symfonie" in Czech) is certainly the composer´s supreme symphonic work, and it also ranks among the supreme symphonies of all times. Dvořák worked on it from early 1893 to May 24 of the same year, in the first year of his stay in America. The circumstances under which it was composed also determined its character and purpose. The special atmosphere of American folk music is unmistakeable to the symphony, although Dvořák made no direct use of Indian or other songs. What, then, can one actually hear in that symphony?

    More than anythong else, one should note its synthetic character. That synthesis is certainly not limited to American elements, motifs or intonations, nor to Czech ones, nor – to adept a new angle – elements which can be attributed to Dvořák´s impressions of America and his nostagia for his distant homeland; the synthesis can also be said to embrace Dvořák´s entire experience in the symphony filed, the essentials of his approach, even the principles of the so-called absolute and programme music. It would be a futile exercise, of course, to try to construe that programme as a continuous epic plot, despite the temptation to see the inspiration for the two middle movements in Longfellow´s poem „The Song of Hiawatha“, certainly an object of Dvořák´s avid interest. However, neither the Scherzo, believed sometimes to picture the dances at Hiawatha´s wedding, nor the Largo, which more than ona analyst has described as a „burial in the forest“, can be said to reflect any screen from the poem; indeed, the whole structure and development of the work (of definitely Czech colouring in the Scherzo´s Trio) would seem to deny any such impressions. Here, like in the opening and final movements, the composer merely exploits the impressions of the New World which he has found fascinating – and there was much to be fascinated with: the new character of America´s life, its exuberant civiliyation, its wildly beautiful – but also, as Dvořák says in his letters, unpeopled – nature, and the Americans´ ostentatious self-assurance and democratic attitudes.

    All that can be heard in the symphony, and one could even match the various impressions and stimull with corresponding themes and musical images, albeit at the risk of over-simplification, since none of the themes is unequivocal, and all of them are transformed in the variations and in conflict with other themes. To be sure, the introduction to the „New World“ gives a feeling of alienation, but the first subject – a kind of „leading motive“ of the whole symphony – enters immediately with a self-assured fanfare, to progress to a definitely Czech colouring in increasingly numerous shades. The second and final subjects reveal obvious imagery of the black slaves´ struggle for freedom, which Dvořák discovered in the the Negro spirituals. Largo, with its elegiac colouring, also owes much to the Negro spirituals, until the variations to the middle section finally succumb to a burst of rebelious vigour. The driving dance-like Scherzo, with markedly Czech Trio, carries the symphony to the even wilder of the final movement, in which someone has even alleged to hear the click of telegraph messages. Without describing to such over-simplification, we can let Dvořák communicate hid impressions of America, whose chaotic and multifaced character he found overwhelming. He emphasizes that image of America by „thematic nodes“, in which duistant subject from different movements are interwined. Moreover, Dvořák reflects here his nostalgia for his homeland, as well as comparison and relationships between his old and new domicile. The supreme relationship is the voice of the people and the struggle for universal freedom and brotherhood of men.

    Jan Blanický

    Important notice:
    This article is the translation of my own article in Czech Wikipedia.