February 28, 2015 7:30 PM
Morrison High School Auditorium
Brahms: Tragic Overture, op. 81
Mozart: Voi che sapete from
Marriage of Figaro
Rodgers and Hammerstein:
My Own Little Corner from
Alice Lind, soprano
Ibert: Concertino da camera
- Second Movement -
Colleen Elfline, saxophone
Dvořák: Symphony No 6
in D minor, Op 60
Allegro non tanto
Scherzo (Furiant), Presto
Finale, Allegro con spirito
If one keeps in mind the few face-to-face meetings that Antonin Dvořák and Johannes Brahms actually had in the nearly two decades of their friendship, then it is difficult to understand the degree of affection the two had for each other. They were in every way the opposite in temperament. Brahms was the intellectual, often brusque composer of complex, penetrating music that stimulated the brain; Dvořák, on the other hand, was the more outgoing, more approachable composer of easily comprehended music that moved the heart. Brahms was disinclined to offer music advice or review the work of the younger composers he associated with in Vienna, such as Karl Goldmark, Hans Rott, and Hugo Wolf, but he appeared eager to assist Dvořák in the preparation and publication of his works.
In one early correspondence, the older composer was quite blunt in his assessment of Dvorák's hasty treatment of his music notations:
...I would give a good deal to be able to discuss individual points with you personally. You write somewhat hurriedly. When you are filling in the numerous missing sharps, flats and naturals, then it would be good to look a little more closely at the notes themselves and at the voice parts etc.
Brahms was not a father-figure to Dvořák, but he did act as the younger composer's bigger brother. Dvořák would often send his manuscripts to Brahms to proofread and amend, and Brahms would then forward the works to the publisher Simrock. This was true even when Dvořák was in the United States as director of the New York Conservatory of Music of America from 1893 through 1895. Brahms reviewed and polished Dvořák's major works from the New World: String Quartet, String Quintet and the Cello Concerto, for instance. The Cello Concerto so enchanted Brahms that he uttered the comment that if he had known a cello concerto could have been written like Dvořák's, "I would have written it myself."
Following an enthusiastic performance of the Slavonic Rhapsody No 3 by the Vienna Philharmonic in November 1879, conductor Hans Richter commissioned Dvořák to write a symphony for the following concert season. Bear in mind that Dvořák had already composed five symphonies, yet none had stirred any interest outside his native Prague. He sought out his mentor for advice on composing a symphony that would grab the attention of audience and critics alike in a sophisticated cosmopolitan capital such as a Vienna or a London. Brahms gave advice, advice which the Czech composer followed almost to the letter: Write the symphony in clearly recognizable symphonic form (i.e., follow the Beethoven or German model), avoid overuse of provincial rhythms and melodies, and keep a 'serious' tone about the overall work.
Dvořák began composing his Symphony in D major in August 1880 with the goal of having the score completed and to the printer by mid-October. In laying out his symphony, Dvořák made sure this new work would meet the standards laid down by Brahms. In fact, he took the extraordinary step and modeled his symphony on a work of the master himself. The framework Dvořák devised proved so successful that he used it as the basic guide for his last three symphonies. Incidentally, Simrock published the score as Symphony No 1 in D major. Only in the 1960s were Dvořák's symphonies collected and numbered in their correct order of composition, and the D major work was corrected to Symphony No 6 in D major.
The Czech composer knew he must cater to his Viennese audience. Thus, his Symphony No 6 in D major is in the classic German tradition of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms - more specifically to the latest Brahms Symphony No 2. In the Adagio second movement, Dvořák references the Adagio movement of Beethoven's Ninth. Only in the Scherzo does Dvořák give full rein to his native temperament with a Furiant that, at the premiere, brought the audience to its feet. In the closing to the work, the orchestra instrumentation, the mood and the tempo markings of the fourth movement are all identical to the same movement of Brahms's Second Symphony, also in D major. As music scholar David Beveridge states,
...with the composition of his Sixth Symphony, Dvořák had at last achieved an optimum balance between his nationalistic-romantic proclivities and the demands of classical form.
Brahms the Master and Dvořák the Protégé - a friendship for which the world of music is the better.