Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) [Composer Of The Week]

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201901A Determined Scribbler20191104

Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age. Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to achieve the success he craved?

Today we’re in the Czech Republic, where the not so young Dvořák eventually overcame professional and personal disappointment to wow audiences and critics alike. Highly self-critical of his own work, Dvořák claimed that as a young man he was never short of paper to light a fire. But despite a slow start he never gave up his dream of being a composer.

Thanks to some supportive individuals Dvořák was eventually catapulted to fame, despite an early attempt at opera which was declared “worse than Wagner … unsingable”.

We’ll hear a concert overture, a movement from the first of Dvořák’s symphonies to be performed publicly, and a series of love songs which were originally composed with his wife’s sister in mind.

Slavonic Dances, Op 46 (Dumka)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

In Nature’s Realm, Op 91
Ulster Orchestra
Vernon Handley, conductor

Symphony No 3 in E flat major, Op 10 (3rd movt Allegro Vivace)
Czech Philharmonic
Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor

Písně Milostné, Op 83
Bernanda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Roger Vignoles, piano

Serenade, Op 44 (Minuetto)
Oslo Philharmonic Wind Soloists

Produced by Cerian Arianrhod for BBC Cymru Wales

Donald Macleod follows Dvorak as he struggles to make his mark as a composer.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201902Influential Friends20191105

Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age. Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to achieve the success he craved?

By 1873 Dvořák was making a name for himself in Prague, but the musical snobbery of the day meant that to be thought truly successful a composer had first to make an impression in Vienna and the Germanic heartlands of classical music. Acclaim from Dvořák’s “narrow Czech fatherland” was not enough.

A state grant for struggling composers brought him into contact with many influential individuals, including Johannes Brahms who became an important friend. An introduction to Brahms’ publisher, Fritz Simrock led to “Dvořákmania”, but the Czech composer’s success came against a background of personal tragedy.

Today Donald Macleod examines Dvořák’s relationships with some of the influential individuals who championed his work, including Brahms, the conductor Hans Richter and the virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim.

Piano Trio in F minor, Op 65 (Allegro grazioso: meno mosso)
The Florestan Trio

Moravian Duets, Op 32 (How small the field of Slavíkov is & Water and Tears)
Genia Kühmeier, soprano
Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Christoph Berner, piano

Symphonic Variations, Op 78
Prague Philharmonia
Jakub Hrůša, conductor

String Quartet No 10 in E flat major, Op 51 (Romanza)
The Emerson String Quartet

Violin Concerto in A minor, Op 53 (2nd movt – Adagio ma non troppo)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Marek Janowski, conductor
Arabella Steinbacher, violin

Produced by Cerian Arianrhod for BBC Cymru Wales

Donald Macleod explores Dvorak's relationship with influential figures in the music world.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201903Notes From A Small Island20191106

Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age. Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to achieve the success he craved?

With the success of Dvořák s breakthrough came difficulties, due to the high expectations of his friends and supporters. Little wonder that the Czech composer’s sights turned elsewhere, to England, and a chance to follow his own path.

Today Donald Macleod asks whether Dvořák’s visits to England led not only to increased fame but also to a greater sense of his own worth as a composer. We’ll hear from some of the works that delighted his English audiences, including an oratorio about a Czech saint and a setting of the Requiem mass.

Dvořák’s success in England also allowed him to fulfil a dream of buying a bolt hole in the country, a place that inspired his 8th Symphony.

Czech Suite, Op 39 (Finale – Furiant)
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Antoni Wit, conductor

Stabat Mater, Op 58 (Quis es homo, qui non fleret)
Lívia Ághová, soprano
Marga Schiml, contralto
Aldo Baldin, tenor
Luděk Vel, bass
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek – conductor

Svatá Ludmila, Op 71 (What man is this whom lightening will not fell? & I beg thee, on thy dusty feet My lips I would lay)
Eva Urbanov, soprano
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor

Symphony No 8 in G major, Op 88 (1st movt – Allegro con brio)
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fische, conductor

Requiem, Op 89 (Hostias)
Pilar Lorengar, soprano
Erzsébet Komlóssy, contralto
Róbert Ilosfalvy, tenor
Tomas Krause, bass
London Symphony Orchestra
The Ambrosian Singers
István Kertész, conductor

Produced by Cerian Arianrhod for BBC Cymru Wales.

Donald Macleod asks how success in England changed Dvorak.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201904The American Dream20191107

Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age. Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to achieve the success he craved?

“The Americans expect great things of me”. Dvořák’s arrival in New York in September 1892 has something of a mid-life crisis about it. Persuaded by the wealthy philanthropist Jeanette Thurber to take up a post of Director at the National Conservatory of Music, it was a chance to escape the shadow of his friend and fellow composer Johannes Brahms. America provided further successes, but also its own set of difficulties.

Today’s programme sees Dvořák embroiled in arguments about the nature of American music and struggling with homesickness. But he was also inspired by his time in America and we’ll hear music which began as a few scribbled notes on a shirt cuff in Iowa and a pieces written after a visit to the Minnehaha Falls.

Piano Trio in E minor, Op 90 (Dumky) (Allegro)
The Florestan Trio

Cello Concerto in B minor, Op 104 (2nd movt – Adagio ma non troppo)
Berliner Philharmoniker
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Violin Sonatina in G, Op 100
Jack Liebeck, violin
Katya Apekisheva, piano

Biblical Songs, op 99 (Oh, my Shepherd is the Lord & By the shore of the river of Babylon)
Dagmar Pecková, mezzo-soprano
Irwin Gage, piano

String Quartet No 12 in F major, Op 96 (American) (Lento)
Pavel Haas Quartet

Symphony No 9, Op 95 (From the New World) (1st movt – Adagio-Allegro molto
Royal Concertgabouw Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

Produced by Cerian Arianrhod for BBC Cymru Wales

Donald Macleod focuses on the highs and lows of Dvorak's time in America.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201905Unfulfilled Ambition20191108

Antonín Dvořák was no spring chicken when he found success as a composer. He was in his early thirties before he made his mark in his native Czech Republic, despite composing from a young age.
Donald Macleod follows Dvořák as he attempts to win over successive audiences: from Prague to Vienna, England to America, before eventually returning to Prague and to the opera stage. Who did he need to impress in order to achieve the success he craved?

There was one musical form in which Dvořák never achieved the success he wanted. His first attempt at opera was immediately consigned to the bin by the critical composer and his second, as we heard on Monday, was a disaster. Despite these setbacks there was rarely a period in Dvořák’s life when he wasn’t writing opera.

Donald Mcleod considers what drove him to persevere, when his other works were so well received by audiences at home and abroad. Why was opera so important to Dvořák, and what held him back? We’ll hear extract from Vanda, The King and Charcoal Burner, Dimitrij and Rusalka as well as one of Dvořák’s other dramatic compositions, the tone-poem The Noonday Witch.

Vanda (Overture)
Prague Radio Orchestra
František Dyk, conductor

The King and the Charcoal Burner (Act 11, scene 7)
Lívia Aghová, soprano (Liduška)
Michelle Breedt, mezzo-soprano (Anna)
Peter Mikuláš, bass (Matěj)
Michal Lehotský, tenor (Jenik)
Prague Chamber Choir
WDR Rundfunkchor Köln & WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
Gerd Albrecht, conductor

Dimitrij (Act 4, scene 3)
Krassimira Stoyanova, sopranp
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
Pavel Baleff, conductor

The Noon Witch, Op 196
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Charles Mackerras, conductor

Rusalka (Act 3)
Renne Fleming, soprano (Rusalka)
Ben Heppner (Prince
Franz Howlata (The Water Goblin)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Charles Mackerras, conductor

Produced by Cerian Arianrhod for BBC Cymru Wales

Donald Macleod explores Dvorak's obsession with opera.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.