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The younger brother to the limelight-stealing New World Symphony, its inclusion here represents an impressive moment in the sun for the Symphony No. 8.
It’s one of Dvořák’s less expansive works – possibly something to do with not just its position before his mighty Symphony No. 9, but also after his Symphony No. 7.
Dvořák had had to go through lengthy and sometimes slightly bizarre negotiations with his publisher, Simrock, over his Symphony No. 7. First, an advance hadn’t been forthcoming, forcing Dvořák to complain that he had endured a bad potato harvest and needed some money upfront. Simrock then refused to print Dvořák’s correct first name on the cover, instead insisting on Germanising it.
The composer dedicated his Symphony No.8 to the music world: ‘To the Bohemian academy of Emperor Franz Joseph for the encouragement of arts and literature, in thanks for my election’. Debts duly paid, he produced a fun and lively symphony, replete with folk tunes that the aforementioned academy would no doubt have loved.
It took him only two and a half months from beginning to end and the spontaneity shines through, with the whole thing played right through in little more than half an hour, making it one of his most easily programmable works.
Budapest Festival Orchestra; Iván Fischer (conductor). Channel Classics: CCSSA90110.