Sunday Classics: Moving backward, we arrive at Dvořák's Symphony No. 7
Vienna Philharmonic, Rafael Kubelik, cond. Decca, recorded October 1956
My first thought after we did Dvořák's Eighth Symphony week before last ("From bucolic depths to blazing glory: Dvořák's Symphony No. 8," with a "refresher" Friday night), once I realized that all we'd heard from his next and last symphony, From the New World, was the Largo, was to forge right on ahead. Then I thought, why not instead go backward to the Seventh, the start of what has become a common grouping of "Dvořák's last three symphonies." Then I thought, well, why not go back to the beautiful Sixth Symphony, or even the Fifth? But I figured we can always come back to those, so this week's subject is the Dvořák Seventh Symphony.
I think everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of a special moment in a piece of music, a moment that suddenly makes you sit up, maybe even lifts you out of your chair,- and that has if anything a stronger effect the more times you listen to the piece.
We're about to encounter what for me is one of them, following hard upon the fairly straightforward yet haunting eight bars we've just heard. Of course if you listen more closely to those eight bars -- basically a haunting little chorale for oboe, two clarinets, and two bassoons, with plucked accompaniment from second violins, violas, and cellos -- you'll notice that in their casual way they're concealing a series of pretty unexpected harmonic juxtapositions. (You'll find the score page that includes bars 6-8 in the click-through, along with bars 9-10.)
None of which prepares us, for what comes next, as the previously plucking strings, now led by the first violins, take up their bows and are promptly joined by the bassoons, horns, and double basses, with the other woodwinds (including the previously unheard flutes, who promptly assume a leadership position) and the timpani chiming in -- for an upwardly sweeping little tune that seems to me pure magic. We'll hear it right after the click-through.
TO HEAR THE CONTINUATION, CLICK HERE