Hall: Concert Hall
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Antonín Dvořák enjoyed the greatest successes in Great Britain in the 1880s. Extremely enthusiastic receptions of Stabat Mater (1883) and Symphony No. 6 (1884) instantly brought about a commission for a new piece and already on 22 April 1885, the London audience witnessed the birth of probably the most ambitious and mature of Dvořák’s works – Slavic Dances. Looking from today’s perspective, it is hard to believe that the composer managed to pen such a magnificent work within less than half a year. A series of unfortunate events that took place at that time in the composer’s life by necessity made this symphony different from its optimistic and sunny predecessors. Experiences related to the death of his dear mothers, deterioration of health and finally the death of Bedřic Smetana, the father of Czech music, are echoed in this intimate and nostalgic Symphony No. 7.
The introduction to Also Sprach Zarathustra is probably the most recognisable among Richard Strauss’ symphonic poems. However, it is Don Quixote, written a year and a half later, that is regarded as one of Strauss’ greatest achievements in the field of orchestral music. After the Persian philosopher Zarathustra, Strauss decided to portray another superhero; however, this time he chose a completely different personality – a knight of a sombre face – Don Quixote. As befits a symphonic poem, the piece has quite an unusual structure – it consists of an introduction, a theme with ten variations and a finale. At the same time, it resembles a symphonie concertante for cello, viola and orchestra. Because of a quite demanding cello part, it is customary to invite soloists to perform it; however, if one were to follow Strauss’ intensions and the guidelines he included in the score, it should be executed by the principal cellist.