Digital Program Bychkov

of the beauty of our country." The Eighth Symphony is based unashamedly on its beautiful melodies, with little true development. Dvořák was very generous with themes in the opening movement. There are no fewer than eight separate melodies in the exposition and they are tossed out with ease and speed. The first theme is presented without preamble in the rich hues of trombones, low strings and low woodwinds in the dark coloring of G minor. This tonality soon yields to the chirping G major of the flute melody, but much of the movement shifts effortlessly between major and minor keys, lending a certain air of nostalgia to the work. The opening melody is recalled to initiate both the development and the recapitulation. In the former, it reappears in its original guise and even, surprisingly, in its original key. The recapitulation begins as this theme is carried forth by the trumpets. The coda is invested with the rhythm and good spirit of an energetic country dance and brings the movement to its rousing end. The second movement is one of the most original conceptions of form in late nineteenth-century symphonic music. The form of this movement, comprising two sections, is created as much by texture and sonority as by the traditional means of melody and tonality. One section is hesitant and somewhat lachrymose, the other stately and flowing. The first section is indefinite in tonality, rhythm and cadence; its theme is a collection of fragments and its texture is sparse. The following section is greatly contrasted: its key is unambiguous, its rhythm and cadence points are clear and its melody is a long, continuous span. It is a daring and prophetic type of musicmaking from a composer who is usually regarded as conservative, as the critic for The New York Times recognized in 1892: "The music of the symphony," he wrote following the New York premiere on March 12, "is certainly modern and strange enough to meet the demands of the most modern extremists." In place of the expected scherzo, the third movement is a leisurely dance in the style of the Austrian Ländler. It opens with a mood of sweet melancholy, but gives way to a languid melody for the central trio, whose theme is drawn from Dvořák's 1874 comic opera The Stubborn Lovers. Following the repeat of the Ländler-scherzo, a vivacious coda in faster tempo paves the way to the finale. The trumpets herald the start of the finale, a theme and variations with a central section resembling a development in character. The bustling second variation returns as a sort of formal mile-stone - it introduces the "development" and begins the coda. (One point of good fun in this variation: the horns, pulling the low woodwinds along with them, ascend to their upper register and blow forth an excited trill generated by the pure joy of the surrounding music). The symphony ends resoundingly amid a burst of high spirits and warm-hearted good feelings. Although sometimes overshadowed in popularity by the "New World" symphony, this work, a walk through the Bohemian countryside, represents the best of optimistic late nineteenthcentury symphonic writing. "Dvořák is among those rare composers who could turn out almost at will and without apparent effort a melody to capture the listener and make an indelible impression upon him," wrote the music critic John Burk in 1962. Burk's statement seems to describe the main characteristics of Dvořák's Eighth Symphony perfectly. Tsilli Rudik