Dvorak Symphony No.7

Dvorak started work on the symphony now known as his seventh in December 1884, completing it in March 1885 ready for the first performance, scheduled for St.James’ Hall in London on April 22nd. The première, under the composer’s baton, was an enormous success, but subsequently Dvorak had great problems arranging the publication of the score and parts. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because he had reservations about its length, he shortened the second movement by about a third, and this shorter version is the one that has been performed ever since: as far as is known, therefore, there is no-one alive who has ever heard the original version… until now!

Jonathan Del Mar has now prepared a new edition of the symphony for publication by Bärenreiter which will include the original version of the slow movement as an appendix. To help in the preparation of the final version of the score and parts, Bromley Symphony Orchestra undertook a play-through of the music on 14th June 2010 under the baton of Adrian Brown, and with Jonathan Del Mar on hand to make any necessary corrections. The corrected parts will then be supplied to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for a performance in Berlin on 30th September, under the baton of Sir Charles Mackerras.

With permission of Jonathan Del Mar, I recorded the play-through and present it here. On the evening, we played the entire symphony, including both versions of the slow movement. The recording here is only of the ‘original’ version of the slow movement, and is in fact edited from two ‘takes’, The opening section (approx. 4m 5s) is from the first run-through: this music is the same as the version we all know. After completing the movement, we spotted a number of errors, which we corrected, and also went over various sections about which Adrian or Jonathan were suspicious, in order to find any further mistakes. Having satisfied ourselves that we had found everything we could, we did a second run-through, but only of the new music: the remainder of the recording here is from this second run-through.

Please remember that this was not designed to be a public performance – there may at times be a little extraneous noise, or comments from the conductor: such imperfections will not, I am sure, spoil your enjoyment of this fascinating music.


8 responses to “Dvorak Symphony No.7

  1. Peter Herbert

    21 March 2011 at 22:33

    This is simply fantastic I have always wanted to hear this movvement in its original form and I am delighted that it is to be published. With Sir Charles no longer with us, who will conduct and record the firest “proper” performance? What a great discovery and what a shame that Dvořák removed so much beautiful music from the work.

  2. Mike Cole

    26 May 2011 at 23:47

    What a fascinating comparison. A pity Dvořák left out all that lovely music (there are some vintage moments!) but on the whole I think he was right to revise, even if it meant that some good bits no longer returned. However, though the revision is more focused and its key scheme works better I’d probably still think that the 7th was his best symphony had the original stood. Liked the piccolo cameo (beginning at 10:27) to add to the one in the Scherzo! I hope someone does do a studio recording soon, but a belated well done to Adrian and the Bromley SO for this pioneering work! Must have been exciting to be a part of. (This is partly greetings from a timpanist in one of Adrian’s other orchestras!)

  3. Peter Herbert

    27 May 2011 at 15:00

    Having now had a chance to hear the Berlin Philharmonic’s performance of the original version under conductor Tomáš Netopil, I can only regret Dvořák’s cuts. The “missing” music is heavenly and the composer’s first thoughts are certainly entirely valid.
    You can hear this full version on the BPO website but registration and all sorts of rigmarole are needed berfore you can get to the music.
    The recording was made on 2 October 2010. I assume it is in Jonathan del Mar’s performing version. If so, then this superb musicologist has done Dvořák and his music a huge and vital service.

  4. Mike Cole

    8 June 2011 at 01:11

    Netopil took Mackerras’ place in the concert so I presume he used the Del Mar edition.
    I’ll have to try the BPO website later – failing that I’ll just have to wait for the commercial recording. Bring it on! Or can we do it in Huntingdon, please? No-one who loves Dvořák will want to be without this music – the unfamiliar parts sound magical even in the run-through.
    Hey, this is as bad as choosing between Bruckner versions!

  5. Peter Herbert

    8 June 2011 at 08:25

    A friend of mine made a recording for me on CD.
    Look for me on Facebook and I could send one (only one please folks!)

  6. Kai Wessler

    8 February 2012 at 17:29

    A recording of the movement will be done by Nuremberg State Philharmonic by next week and will be issued by Coviello Classics

  7. Eduardo Schalscha

    16 October 2015 at 16:51

    Very interested to hear this original piece of the second movement of the seventh Dvorak symphonie. .

  8. John Steven Lasher

    7 March 2016 at 05:57

    I was so pleased to hear this great ‘original’ movement. Before Bernard Herrmann’s tragic death in 1975 he had contracted with English Decca to record the Seventh with the longer second movement.


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