Dvořák wrote his Sixth Symphony for the conductor Hans Richter and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1880, but the prejudices of certain members of the orchestra towards the Czechs and their unwillingness to allow the inclusion of a new work by a new Czech composer so soon after the successful performance in 1879 of the third Slavonic Rhapsody allowed Adolf Cech, once the composer’s colleague in the St. Cecilia Orchestra during student days, to give the first performance in Prague early in 1881. The following year August Manns conducted the symphony at a Crystal Palace concert in London, and Richter added a further London performance of the work he had commissioned three weeks later. The first Vienna performance was given in 1883 by Wilhelm Gericke for the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. The symphony is scored for the usual pairs of woodwind instruments, four horns, a pair of trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani and strings.
Attention has been drawn to similarities between the D major Symphony and the symphony by Brahms in the same key, although Dvorak’s work bears the indelible stamp of his own genius at its height and may be heard as a tribute to the man who had earlier given him timely help in his career. The symphony opens with repeated accompanying chords played by horns and divided violas, above which the principal theme gradually appears. There is a superb slow movement in the key of B flat, followed by a scherzo bearing the subtitle furiant, a Czech peasant dance, with a contrasting trio, pierced by the piccolo in pastoral mood. The strings open the finale with a long drawn Brahmsian theme, joined by the wind and swelling soon to triumphant dimensions in a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
- Dvorak’s New World Symphony (taylormillsmusic.wordpress.com)