Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)
Czech Suite, Op 39 (1879)
Preludium (Pastorale): Allegro moderato
Polka: Allegretto grazioso
Sousedska (Minuetto): Allegro giusto
Romanza: Andante con moto
Finale (Furiant): Presto
Dvořák, like his father and grandfather before him, might have become a village butcher. Instead, thanks to his conspicuous musicality, he became a viola player in the orchestra of the Prague National Theatre. What he learned in the pit - with Wagner and Smetana among his conductors - served him in good stead as a composer who merged the folk idioms of his homeland with the symphonic music of Vienna and elsewhere. Music flowed from him with a fecundity soon to be rivalled by that of the young Richard Strauss, and the first of his two serenades, the E major, Op 22, for strings, brims with glowing viola tone.
After the major-key sweetness of that work and minor-key pungency of the succeeding wind serenade, Op 44, Dvořák contemplated a third serenade, scored for wind and strings, which would complete an intended triptych. Failing to make headway on it, he produced instead his Czech Suite in D major, a potpourri of orchestral dances and other movements with a misleadingly early opus number, culminating in a swinging, ambitiously symphonic Furiant.
More varied in colouring than its predecessors, the Czech Suite contains material - notably in the central minuet - from the abandoned third serenade, but otherwise goes its own leisurely and idiosyncratic way, incorporating rustic bagpipe imitations as part of the pastoralism of the prelude. The succeeding polka possesses a faintly melancholy Dvorakian charm and the minuet, which he preferred to call a sousedska, is a Czech “neighbours’ dance,” of a sort reputedly aimed at elderly villagers for whom other Czech dances were deemed too lively.
The romantic fourth movement, with its atmospheric woodwind interplay, evokes the soft moonlit radiance of Rusalka, the water-nymph opera Dvorak wrote two decades later,. Finally the suite is exhilaratingly energised by a Furiant, a type of Czech dance famed for its furious syncopations, filled with rhythmic tension, minor-key leanings, and abruptly braying horns.
Though heard less frequently than the two popular serenades, the music represents Dvořák at his most thoroughly nationalistic. The work established itself in the SCO’s repertoire in the 1970s, when it was vivaciously championed by the orchestra’s earliest conductor Roderick Brydon.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra celebrates Scotland’s natural riches in music and song, featuring popular soprano Lorna Anderson who performs traditional songs including Burns’ John Anderson my jo and Ye Banks and Braes.
Border Lines is a new piece by composer-conductor Howard Moody inspired by and celebrating the National Trust for Scotland’s Nature Reserve at St Abb’s Head and its local communities. Over the past year, Moody has been working on a project with pupils from Coldingham and Eyemouth Primary Schools and the Eyemouth Fishermen’s Choir and Mission Crew, getting to know the landscape and the people and creating songs about the area.
The concert opens with the best-known musical celebration of Scotland’s magnificent scenery - Mendelssohn’s dramatic Hebrides Overture, and closes with Dvořák’s delightful potpourri of orchestral dances.
Tickets: £14 / Senior Citizens £12 / Children, Students, Unemployed People and People with a disability (and carer) £5
Tickets for Galashiels from Fancy Creations, 100 High Street, Galashiels 01896 753 587 (in person only) and www.borderevents.com/boxoffice