Programme notes

Symphony No 6 in D, Antonin Dvorak (1841—1904)

1 Allegro non tanto; 2 Adagio; 3 Scherzo (Furiant) Presto; 4 Finale, Allegro con spirito

Antonin Dvořák was a declared supporter of Czech independence throughout his life.

In April 1881, a music critic for a Czech paper, wrote of the Sixth: 'This new Dvořák symphony simply excels over all others of the same type within contemporary musical literature ... in truth, the work has an eminently Czech nature.'

The symphony, which made Dvořák internationally known, resembles Brahms' Symphony No. 2 (Brahms admired the younger man, and supported him in his career) but includes significant references to Czech folk music and dance.

His melodies in his symphonies are often a dialogue between groups of instruments, sometimes finishing one another’s phrases, and his themes might be stated by woodwinds and horns as well as the strings. He began in the Sixth to express and refine a style that shows a steady maturing through the other three symphonies which Spires will be playing in the next few years.

They all demonstrate his grasp and understanding of the classical symphonic form, but with a very personal voice; his music is always dramatic, with major-minor shifts, never losing his touch for beautiful melody and strong harmonies, and featuring subtle shifts of orchestral colour as different instruments take the lead.

Dvořák remained determinedly Czech even when he was internationally known and travelled widely. He respected traditional folk-music wherever he was, a respect that finally came to full fruition in the New World symphony, his ninth. Although he used American folk music and spirituals in the Ninth, he never forgot his homeland. Thinking about his composition processes, he wrote to a friend ‘What’s in my mind [when composing] is Love, God, and my Fatherland’.

Mike Torbe

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