ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Symphony No. 7 (1885)
When Dvořák was commissioned to compose a new symphony, he wrote to a friend, “My new symphony must be such as to make a stir in the world,” a goal that the Seventh fulfilled magnificently. Many consider this to be Dvořák’s most perfect symphony — a work of beauty, drama, turbulence, and melodic riches. Although pressured to abandon his musical allegiance to his native Bohemia to be viewed more favorably in Vienna, Dvořák defended the nationalism in his works. in fact, it may be that his response this pressure to forsake his musical roots infused the Seventh Symphony with both a melancholy and decidedly Czech spirit. While he did not quote any folk songs verbatim, their rhythms and cadences are there. In the third movement, listen for the exciting sounds of the furiant, an aptly named Czech dance. And when, at the end, D major triumphs over D minor, it feels like being embraced by sunlight.