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Marek Štryncl & Musica Florea


F10245   [8595017424526]   released 12/2019     

in cooperation with Musica Florea, z.s.
with financial support of Ministry of Culture, Czech Republic

play album Dvořák: Symphony No.5 59:03
1. Othello 14:53
2. Symfonie č. 5 - Allegro ma non troppo 14:33
3. Symfonie č. 5 - Andante con moto 8:02
4. Symfonie č. 5 - Scherzo. Allegro scherzando 8:03
5. Symfonie č. 5 - Finale. Allegro molto 13:30


Among works in the copious orchestral oeuvre of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), his concert overture Othello and Symphony No. 5 in F major have not found such a firm place in repertoire as for instance his Slavonic Dances, his Cello Concerto, or his last three symphonies. Nevertheless these two works possess great value; their relative neglect stems from factors having little if anything to do with their intrinsic worth.

Othello is in fact ranked by some connoisseurs among the greatest of all Dvořák’s orchestral works. But it leaves commentators somewhat baffled in that it seems not to be ‘typical’ of its composer—less typical for instance than its two companions in a trilogy of concert overtures he created in 1891-92: the bucolic In Nature’s Realm and merry Carnival. Tragedy is not a genre most people think of in connection with Dvořák. Even Eduard Hanslick, his champion among music critics in Vienna, opined in reviewing Othello that ‘destructive dramatic conflict lies far from Dvořák’s nature’ and that he was wearing a ‘mask’ here, not being true to himself. Hanslick, however, also failed to appreciate Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, acknowledged by most experts worldwide today as a supremely powerful expression of its tragic text. All that is required is to listen to these works with an open mind, free of tendencies to put composers in ‘pigeon holes’.

Dvořák’s autograph score of Othello includes annotations in his hand, at one point referring to Othello and Desdemona 'in a quiet, intoxicatingly blissful embrace' in a passage where upward chromatic scales alternate with prolonged chords indeed intoxicating in their harmonic exoticism. But Othello's unwarranted jealousy––anticipated already near the overture’s beginning––mounts in successive waves until finally, with loud dissonant chords of the full orchestra and cries of anguish descending in the cellos and basses alone, he strangles her. Almost immediately he regrets his deed. He prays, to music recalling the prayer-like opening bars of the work. We hear an echo of the 'intoxicating embrace' as he kisses her for the last time, then his rage mounts again, turned this time against himself, leading on the final furious pages to his suicide.

As for Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5, its ‘problem’ in reception history is of a different nature. Here, too, we find a powerful drama, in the fourth and last movement—but it leads to a ‘happy ending’. In the meantime lovers of the ‘bucolic’ Dvořák find plenty to like in the opening movement, while the third movement satisfies admirers of his merry dances. The ‘problem’ is that the symphony has been presumed inferior by virtue of its status as an ‘early’ work. Dvořák composed it in 1875, well before the turning point in his fortunes when, in 1878, he finally gained universal recognition of his mastery. But the Symphony No. 5 is obviously not the work of a ‘beginner’. Dvořák had already composed a host of works often showing great skill and containing passages of ravishing beauty. What ‘began’ in Dvořák’s works from the latter part of 1874 and 1875 was what we might call his own personal ‘voice’—the style that we associate with works of his maturity.

It took some time for the world to fully register the birth of such a very remarkable ‘voice’. Thus for example the Fifth Symphony lay in the drawer almost four years before its premiere, in Prague on 25 March 1879. Reviews were enthusiastic, one stressing that this work’s beauties would emerge all the more clearly upon repeated hearings. Yet the next performance in Prague came almost a decade later! The hitch was that Dvořák was turning out a continuous stream of new works, which naturally aroused greater interest that those composed earlier. In 1887, however, he took a look back at his works from before 1878 and chose several of them to offer to his main publisher, Simrock in Berlin, including the Fifth Symphony. Simrock indeed issued these works after revisions—only slight revisions in the case of the symphony, which received the premiere of its published version in the Crystal Palace near London on 7 April 1888. Advance notices in the press had indicated this would be a ‘new symphony’ by Dvořák and some reviewers were clearly disappointed when they discovered the truth. Nevertheless they found in it much to appreciate; one called it a ‘fine work’ and another wrote ‘I admire the symphony throughout.’ 

One of the many interesting features of Dvořák’s Fifth Symphony is its unusual dramatic scheme: hints of tension in the first three movements lead to a veritable storm in the Finale, which however reaches a satisfying resolution including, almost at the very end, reference to not one but two striking motives from the work’s opening. These unusual structural traits as well as many details throughout the work reappear eight years later in a work by a somewhat older composer known for his influence on Dvořák, but who may also have taken inspiration from his younger colleague: Johannes Brahms, in his Third Symphony, also in F major. Though Brahms probably never heard Dvořák’s Fifth in concert, he had studied the score in 1876 as a member of a commission in Vienna evaluating Dvořák’s successful application for a grant, and could also have studied it in 1883 around the time he composed his own Third: during that period it was held by Hans Richter, conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic. Whether Brahms took inspiration from Dvořák consciously or unconsciously we cannot say, but it seems unlikely that such a constellation of features shared by the two symphonies in F would be purely accidental. In any case they provide further evidence of the perhaps unsuspected interest lying hidden in this and many other specimens of Dvořák’s ‘early’ works. 

David R. Beveridge

dirigent Marek Štryncl

1. housle: Eleonora Machová, Martin Kaplan, Vojtěch Jakl, Veronika Manová, Eva Kalová, Ĺuba Habart, Bohumila Bidlová, Petra Ščevková
2. housle: Simona Tydlitátová. Jan Hádek, Viktor Tomek, Martina Kuncl Štillerová, Jiřina Štrynclová, Anna Kůdelová, Vít Nermut
viola: Lýdie Cillerová, Martin Stupka, Magdalena Malá, Radim Sedmidubský, Jakub Verner
violoncello: Helena Matyášová, Petra Machková Čadová, Dalibor Pimek, Matyáš Keller, Jan Raitmajer
kontrabas: Ondřej Štajnochr, Tadeáš Mesany, Zuzana Blahová
flétna, pikola: Marek Špelina, Anna Špelinová
hoboj: Inge Marg, Aleš Ambrosi
anglický roh: Michaela Hrabánková
klarinet, basklarinet: Ludmila Peterková, Marjolein De Roos
fagot: Kryštof Lada, Petr Budín
trubka: Lubomír Kovařík, Marek Vajo
lesní roh: Jiří Tarantík, Dorota Šimonová, Barbora Šimůnková, Krzystof Bialasik
pozoun: Ondřej Sokol, Pavel Novotný, Martin Švadlenka
tuba: Jiří Genrt
harfa: Ivana Pokorná
tympány: David Růžička
bicí nástroje: Jiří Krob, Martin Kopřiva

Further recordings by Marek Štryncl and Musica Florea orchestra:


© Studio Svengali, February 2020
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