Cutting Room Floor: Dvorak
31 Jan 2011
Inside the Classics

Posts tagged as Cutting Room Floor are where we put all the material relevant to our Inside the Classics concerts that we don’t have time to get to in the actual shows. Some of it is serious, some of it is silly, and some of it is just extra information about the featured composer or piece of music that we didn’t know what else to do with. This is also the place for any comments or questions you want to leave after having attended one of the live shows. Just click the “Comment” link at the end of the post…

First off, here’s the playlist of pieces we excerpted during the first half of the concert:

DVORAK – Symphony No. 7 in D minor
DVORAK – Symphony No. 8 in G Major
DVORAK – Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”
DVORAK – Slavonic Dance Op. 46, No. 1
BRAHMS – Symphony No. 3 in F Major
JANACEK – Sinfonietta, Op. 60
SMETANA – Furiant from The Bartered Bride

  • A number of my colleagues in the orchestra asked me after the Friday night concert why Sarah and I hadn’t gotten into the wonky numbering of Dvorak’s symphonies, to which I answered, “Because it’s incredibly boring and no one cares.” But on reflection, of course, there are people who care (notably, anyone old enough to have grown up being told unequivocally that Dvorak’s New World symphony was his 5th,) and it’s an interesting lesson in how you shouldn’t believe everything you read. Basically, back in Dvorak’s time, publishers had the final say on how your symphonies were numbered, and since a) not every symphony Dvorak wrote was published in his lifetime and b) several were published out of the order he’d written them in, everything was a bit jumbled. So Dvorak’s 6th, 7th, 5th, 8th, and 9th symphonies were originally published (in that order) as #1-#5. The actual symphonies #1-#4 weren’t published until after Dvorak’s death, though all but the first were at least performed while he was alive. There was a long period in the mid-20th century (after the symphonies had been re-ordered to reflect the order in which they were actually written) during which sheet music and recordings of Dvorak symphonies carried both sets of numbers, like a highway that’s been renamed but still has the old street sign below the new one. These days, we number them exclusively in chronological order of composition.
  • A gentleman at our Friday night post-concert Q&A session pointed out, quite correctly, that the desire to emulate Brahms and raise his own compositional profile wasn’t Dvorak’s only motivation in creating his 7th symphony. It was also his first (and only, I believe) symphonic commission, under which a wealthy organization (in this case, the London Philharmonic Society, which had also commissioned Beethoven’s 9th) was paying him to write something substantial. The fact that the Society had put so much confidence in the work in advance also undoubtedly helped it spread more widely than it otherwise might have.
  • Speaking of audience comments, a few people wondered why we used video projections for the first half of the show, as we’ve done several times before, but turned the cameras off for the performance of the symphony on the second half. The simple answer is that you told us to: in the course of conducting research into how our audiences feel about a video component, many people have told us that they enjoy the extra visual stimulation while we’re in talk/play mode, but would prefer to experience the performance aspect of ItC on a purely musical level. (We’ve also, of course, heard from those who want all video, all the time, and those who think it heralds the coming apocalypse of serious concert music.) So we decided to take the suggestion and see what people thought – our Friday night Q&A crowd was overwhelmingly positive on this way of doing it, but that’s a non-representative sample, so feel free to send along your thoughts. Video’s a huge expense for us, so if/when we include it in our shows, we want to be sure we’re using it in a way that’s enjoyable for you.
  • The clip we played at the end of the first half, from the movie Philadelphia, seemed to move a lot of you in the audience – not a surprise, since I consider that scene, in which Tom Hanks narrates the plot of Andrea Chenier for Denzel Washington’s uneasy benefit as Maria Callas wails in the background, to be one of the great musical moments ever captured on film. My only regret was that we didn’t have time to play the whole scene, and capture the full range not only of Hanks’ acting abilities, but the stark beauty of Umberto Giordano’s beloved aria, La Mamma Morta. Better late than never: here’s the complete scene…

As always, thanks so much to everyone who came out to our ItC shows this weekend! Fire away in the comments if you care to, and we’ll see you in March for a romp through some of Ravel’s best stuff!

<October 2019>

Become a Fan

Become a fan of Sarah Hicks to hear about new music, videos, event info & special offers.