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Orchestral concert: Bartók, Schubert, Dvořák


Online stream from the Müpa Budapest
February17, 7:45 P.M.
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Béla Bartókbio:
Romanian Folk Dances (with the melodies performed as they originally were, by a folk ensemble)

Franz Schubertbio:
Symphony No. 8 in B minor (“Unfinished”), D. 759


Antonín Dvořákbio:
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88



Other information

The event is about 2.5 hours long.

About the event

Bartók, Schubert and Dvořák – three composers who would not rest until they found the musical space where they truly felt at home. In addition to the almost countless number of tunes he collected in Hungary, Bartók also assembled a collection of more than 6000 melodies beyond the country’s borders: he devoted his life to ensuring that authentic folk music become a part of the repertoire of classical music. Schubert, in addition to inventing the genre of German songs – writing more than 600 of them –, after six symphonies arrived at an entirely new orchestral language, even if the piece ultimately remained unfinished. The Czech composer Dvořák would battle himself and the critics for a long time before managing to overcome the German influence in his works and make the folk music of his homeland popular.

In 1915, Bartók chose seven violin and recorder melodies from ones he had collected in Romania, and wove them together first as parts of a piano composition and then two years later as an orchestral piece. The last of the Romanian Folk Dances incorporates two melodies, so that the piece has six movements in total. However, because the last two are played without any pause in between, it is also referred to as Five Romanian Dances. The opening Stick Dance is, according to the composer, is “usually danced by a young lad who supposedly can jump high enough to kick the ceiling.” The playful round dance entitled Sash Dance is followed by the mysterious “In One Spot,” before moving on to a uniquely pulsating oriental tune, the “Dance from Bucsum.” The piece concludes with the Romanian Polka, of various time signatures, and the virtuous Fast Dance.

Although it is referred to as the Unfinished, Symphony No. 8 is actually whole, with its two completed grandiose movements. Schubert set to work composing the piece in 1822, at the height of his prowess, but was forced to leave it unfinished when the first signs of his illness, which would later lead to his death, appeared. The piece only premiered some nearly forty years following the death of the composer. The opening theme of the first movement, performed on the low strings, immediately transports the listener to an ominous atmosphere. Later, the somewhat more positive main theme is also interrupted painfully several times; there is only a glimmer of hope at the very end of the movement. The atmosphere of the second movement is even more uncertain. Sensitive ppp melodies alternate with dramatic outbursts, but the movement – and, thus, the entire piece – ultimately ends on an elevated note.

Dvořák’s own Symphony No. 8 was similarly an important milestone for the composer: it was the first time he was truly successful at introducing Czech folk music elements to the genre of the symphony. Despite its national characteristics, the piece is also known as the “English” symphony, as the composer offered it to Cambridge University after being awarded a doctoral degree by the school. The three-note crescendo motif which appears early in the first movement weaves through and binds the four movements together. The second movement is comprised of choral-like short lines and exciting pieces of musical dialogue; the third, despite being a waltz, is much more reminiscent of the atmosphere and style of Slavic dances. The finale is introduced by a fanfare of trumpets; the core of the movement is provided by a song filled with variations and interrupted by a march.

Excerpt from Schubert's Unfinished Symphony:

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