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Concert Program Cover

Third Concert of the 79th Season

The Bohemians!

Sunday, March 11th, 2018
Honeywell Center, Wabash
Scott Humphries, Conductor

  The Moldau (Vltava) from Má Vlast Bedřich Smetana  
  Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 Antonín Dvořák  

I. Allegro con brio
II. Adagio
III. Allegro grazioso
IV. Allegro ma non troppo


The Adams Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

  The Moldau (Vltava) from Má Vlast Bedřich Smetana

Bedrich Smetana was born in Bohemia (a province of the Czech Republic) at a time when it was under Austrian rule. He was a prodigy, performing publicly at the age of five, and composing at the age of eight. Smetana was a nationalist and did for his native Bohemia what his friend and teacher, Liszt, did for Hungary. He became the first truly Czech composer. Smetana wrote a number of tone poems and several operas of nationalist character, the most popular of which was The Bartered Bride.

Smetana was a great promoter of "program music," which has been out of fashion with critics for some time, though still very popular with audiences. He thought music ought to be related to the world around, not "absolute" or "abstract."

His most popular work is The Moldau, or Vltava, from the cycle of tone poems called Má Vlast (My Fatherland). It is a very picturesque work, depicting the river Moldau as it flows through Bohemia from its twin sources to its mouth. We first sense the trickle, then the stream, the village fair, the rapids, its passage through Prague, and finally its grandeur as it broadens on its way to the Elbe.

  Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 Antonín Dvořák

Musically, Dvořák is the heir to Schubert; emotionally, the heir to Smetana. He had Schubert's natural gift of lyricism, and he tried to follow Smetana as a Czech nationalist. He failed in his attempt to develop as an opera composer, never matching Smetana's success in this field, but many think he outdistanced his model as fas as musical nationalism is concerned.

Dvořák was born in Vltava, a small village where his father was an innkeeper. His music, with its frequent references to peasant dances and folk tunes, may have been colored by his exposure at an early age to the small-town bands he heard at his father's inn.

He became a very accomplished violinist, and eventually won a post in the Czech National Theatre Orchestra as violinist. He played there for several years under the baton of Bedřich Smetana. He wrote a number of string quartets and became very adept at writing for massed strings, an important element in developing orchestral tone.

There is a straightforward, down-to-earth quality about Dvořák and his music. He loved birds, his garden, the Church, and locomotives(!). He wrote the Ninth Symphony when he was in New York and, homesick, he would travel over an hour to get to a point from which he could watch the express trains go by. His love of the Church was so heartfelt that he was very disappointed to discover that his great friend and patron, Brahms, did not share his devotion. "Such a man, such a soul - and he doesn't believe in anything!"

Critics are divided in their opinions of Dvořák's orchestration. Some think there is evidence in his music that he spent too much time listening to village bands -- that he tried too hard to be Czech. Others believe he was self-indulgent, that he refused to revise or to edit. "What I have written, I have written," he once remarked. However, there is much evidence to the contrary. The final movement of the G major symphony was revised at least nine times. The very numbering of the symphonies bears witness to his self-critical nature.

The Eighth Symphony in G Major used to be called the Fourth. The familiar New World Symphony, known to many of us as the Fifth, is now called the Ninth. This is because Dvořák was dissatisfied with his first four symphonies and withdrew them. It was a terrible thing to live in the shadow of Beethoven, so many composers (including Brahms) waited until they were quite mature before venturing to write their first symphonies. Dvořák dared to start early, but repented.

The Eigth has four movements. The first is marked Allegro con brio, and begins with a slow, plaintive melody which soon turns brighter with the flute doing a familiar "bird song." I say familiar because Dvořák loved birds and frequently imitated them in his music. We have the introduction sounding rather ecclesiastic, followed by the light tune played by the flute, a contrast which prompted one critic to write that Dvořák was "at first in church and then in his garden."

The second movement, Adagio, is considered "a delight" or "an embarrassment," depending on the critic. This is the movement which most recalls the "village band." There are at least two references to the use of a cimbalom in this movement, but there is no indication of it in the score. The cimbalom is a stringed instrument played with mallets, and common in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. It is a folk instrument, and not found in many serious works. Grove's musical disctionary simply comments that the descending sixths of the middle section of this movement recall the sound of the cimbalom. Other sources refer to the playing of the cimbalom. It is possible that early performances included this folk instrument, but, in the face of criticism that it lowered the tone of the piece, Dvořák removed it from the instrumentation. If that is the case, it is further refutation of the allegation that Dvořák resisted editing or revision.

The third movement, Allegretto grazioso, is even more folk-like than the adagio. It is in waltz-time, and the theme is taken from an unseccessful opera, The Strong Heads, or The Pig-Headed Peasants, depending on the translation. It is hard to avoid cliché when writing of this section. The phrases "singing strings" and "soaring melody" come naturally to mind. Village dancing breaks out near the end, in 2/4 time, molto vivace. Brahms had used the same device in the third movement of his D major symphony.

The fourth movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is a theme-and-variations. It begins with a trumpet fanfare, and is followed by rich, dark strings. The middle section has an interesting series of downward modulations. There are a number of Wagnerian touches in this movement. The theme upon which these variations are based is related to the flute tune in the first movement, thus lending a unifying quality to the work.

Some have said that all of Dvořák's symphonies collectively represent a single pastoral symphony, a life-long song in praise of Nature, and the landscape of Bohemia. If any one symphony must be singled out to play that role, it might well be the Eighth.


Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

  Violin I
Elizabeth Smith, Concertmaster
Kayla Michaels, Student concertmaster +^
Pablo Vasquez
Kristin Westover
Ilona Orban
Linda Kummernuss

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Hailey Schneider +
Paula Merriman
Alexandria Roskos +^
Wendy Kleintank
Pryce Whisenhunt +^
Lachlan Sharp +^
Tyasia Thompson +
Tiffany Hanna +

Julie Sadler *
Josie Burton
Margaret Sklenar
Colleen Phillips

Robert Lynn *
Wallace Dubach
Daniel Kubischta +^
Anna Wright +^
Monique Hochstetler +^

Darrel Fiene *
Katie Huddleston
Rod Sroufe

Kathy Davis *
Kathy Urbani
Laura Stepanovich +^

George Donner *
Nyssa Tierney

Lila D. Hammer *
Mark Huntington

Erich Zummack *
Freddie Lapierre +^

Christen Adler *
John Morse
Jamie Weidner
Matt Weidner
Laura Dickey +^
Barb Burdge

Steven Hammer *
Mykayla Neilson

Jon Hartman *
Katrina Murray +^
Dakota Brown

Larry Dockter

David Robbins *

Joel Alexander +^
Mason McBride +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MU student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
** Denotes assistant principal