This concert presents two sides of Dvořák’s sensibility in two of his greatest works. The opening work is a concerto from his American period; one of his most exuberant creations, it is the last work he produced before leaving New York and going back to Prague after his two-year stint in the New World. With its soulful lyricism, exquisite balancing of cello and orchestra, and open-air grandeur, it is often regarded as the greatest cello concerto in the repertoire. The delicate slow movement is a memorial to Dvořák’s secret love for his sister-in-law, who was dying when he wrote it; the first and last movements have an epic quality that recalls the “New World” Symphony.
Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony—regarded by many critics as his greatest—aspires to be a tragic German work that transcends Bohemian nationalism. Though it presents a new seriousness and ambition, Dvořák’s irrepressible Slavonic sensibility bursts forth repeatedly, especially in folkloric dances and pastoral melodies. As with the Cello Concerto, the symphony, though in a minor key, ends with a blazing major-key coda.